The Archbishop of Canterbury has claimed the government have no mandate for plans to introduce gay marriage.
Dr Rowan Williams, speaking at a meeting of the Church of England’s governing body the General Synod said: “The basis of the mandate for changing the state’s understanding of marriage given the lack of any commitment in the election manifestos of the main parties has been one of the many issues raised in those discussions.”
He is quoted by the Daily Telegraph as saying it would be a “reasonable inference” to deduce from his comments that he does not believe the government has the right to introduce gay marriage when asked by Synod member Gerald O’Brien about his comments.
The comments come shortly after Dr Williams said the Church was in a "tangle" and Christians need to tackle their feelings of shame, disgust and embarrassment over homosexuality.
Speaking at an event for teenagers on how Christianity is viewed by non-religious people called "Help, my friends think I'm mad" at Lambeth palace he said Christians could send out a message of “lack of understanding” about gay marriage.
"Same with same-sex marriage, where once more we're used to being alongside people who are gay; many of our friends may be – indeed we may be – wrestling with that issue ourselves, and the church is scratching its head and trying to work out where it is on all that, and what to think about it.
"What's frustrating is that we still have Christian people whose feelings about it are so strong, and sometimes so embarrassed and ashamed and disgusted, that that just sends out a message of unwelcome, of lack of understanding, of lack of patience.
"So whatever we think about it, we need, as a church, to be tackling what we feel about it."
The Church of England’s formal response to the government’s consultation on gay marriage, warned it could lead to it being forced out of its role of conducting weddings on behalf of the state.
The Church of England said several "major elements" of the proposals had not been thought through properly and were not legally "sound."
Several senior religious figures across all faiths have spoken out against introducing gay marriage, including the Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and the Roman Catholic leader Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols.