LONDON -- The British government said Sunday it was planning to change the law and allow same-sex couples to have civil partnership ceremonies in places of worship.

The Sunday Telegraph newspaper said such ceremonies could be permitted to include religious elements for the first time.

The proposed marriage law reforms could also end the legal definition of marriage pertaining only to a man and a woman, in a highly symbolic move, according to London's The Sunday Times.

"The government is currently considering what the next stage should be for civil partnerships, including how some religious organizations can allow same-sex couples to register their relationship in a religious setting if they wish to do so," a Home Office spokesman said.

"Ministers have met a range of people and organizations to hear their views on this issue. An announcement will be made in due course," he said.

While the changes will be welcomed by gay equality campaigners, they could provoke a strong reaction from some traditionalists and church groups.

The Church of England has already said it will not allow any of its buildings to be used for civil partnership ceremonies.

However, other groups including Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Jews are likely to be more sympathetic, The Sunday Telegraph said.

Civil partnerships were introduced in Britain in December 2005. They give gay couples almost exactly the same rights as married heterosexual couples.

Under current rules, ceremonies must be secular and cannot contain religious elements, such as hymn singing and Bible readings.

The Sunday Telegraph said equalities minister Lynne Featherstone was expected to outline shortly plans to lift the ban.

The weekly broadsheet warned that the new move could open a "legal minefield," with gay couples possibly taking action against faith groups if they were barred from tying the knot in their chosen place of worship.

The Office of National Statistics said that as of May 2010 more than 26,000 civil partnerships had been formed in Britain.