People will be able to have their say on the proposed changes by completing the online survey.
Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone said: ‘I believe that if a couple love each other and want to commit to a life together, they should have the option of a civil marriage, whatever their gender.
‘Today is a hugely important step as we consider how to lift the ban on civil marriage for same-sex couples.
‘This is about the underlying principles of family, society, and personal freedoms.
‘Marriage is a celebration of love and should be open to everyone.’
Under current law same-sex couples can have a civil partnership but not a civil marriage. The government wants to make the right to marry in civil premises, like a register office or hotel, available to everyone.
The proposal is to remove the ban on same-sex couples having a civil marriage
The consultation will look at civil marriage only i.e. only civil marriage ceremonies in a register office or other approved premises (like a hotel)
No changes are proposed to religious marriages. This will continue to only be legally possible between a man and a woman
Not looking at civil partnerships for opposite-sex couples
The consultation will propose that civil partnerships are retained as an option for same-sex couples, once civil marriage is opened up
Civil partnership registrations on religious premises will continue as is currently possible i.e. on a voluntary basis for faith groups and with no religious content
Individuals will, for the first time, be able legally to change their gender without having to end their marriage.