The Church does not "own" marriage nor have the exclusive right to say who can marry, a government minister has said.
Her comments come as ministers prepare to launch a public consultation on legalising gay marriage next month. [...]
Ms Featherstone, a Liberal Democrat minister, responded to comments made by Lord Carey, a former Archbishop of Canterbury, who said that "not even the Church" owns marriage.
She said: "(Marriage) is owned by neither the state nor the Church, as the former Archbishop Lord Carey rightly said.
"It is owned by the people."
Ms Featherstone also appealed to people not to "polarise" the debate about same-sex marriages.
"This is not a battle between gay rights and religious beliefs," she said.
"This is about the underlying principles of family, society and personal freedoms."