PLANS to allow religious gay marriage have been condemned by the area’s leading Church of England cleric.

The Bishop of Burnley and acting head of the Blackburn Diocese, John Goddard, said: “This is not in any way homophobic, but I oppose gay marriage.

“According to Biblical tradition, marriage is something for a man and a woman with the possibility of procreation. I have no problem with civil partnerships.”

The government plans have also split East Lancashire MPs.

Blackburn’s former Labour Cabinet Minister Jack Straw and Pendle Tory Andrew Stephenson back the proposals.

Burnley Liberal Democrat Gordon Birtwistle is strongly opposed.

Hyndburn Labour MP Graham Jones and Rossendale and Darwen Conservative Jake Berry have reservations about the planned legislation.

Chorley’s Lindsay Hoyle and Ribble Valley’s Nigel Evans are unable to express an opinion because as Deputy Commons Speakers they may chair debates on any Bill promoting the change.

Mr Evans, who came out as gay in 2010, is understood to privately support the move.

On Tuesday, Culture Secretary Maria Miller announced plans to introduce same-sex marriage in England and Wales before 2015.

She said the Church of England will be banned from offering same-sex marriages, but other religious organisations will be able to “opt in” to such ceremonies.

No religious organisation or individual minister will be compelled to marry same-sex couples and it will be unlawful for ministers to marry gay couples unless their religious organisation opts in.

Equality law will be amended to prevent discrimination claims for refusing to marry a same-sex couple.

Mr Birtwistle said: “I will vote against gay marriage. Civil partnerships are fine. Gay marriage is just not on.”

Mr Straw said: “I am in favour of gay marriage. As a practising member of the Church of England I would like to see the legislation passed this year.”

Tory party vice-chairman Andrew Stephenson said: “I support same sex marriage. I strongly favour equal treatment.”

Mr Berry said: “I am concerned that the safeguards proposed in the legislation for those churches and ministers who do not wish to conduct same-sex marriages are inadequate. I am not in favour of the legislation as it stands.”

Mr Jones said: “I have got concerns about the legislation. I need to read the full Bill very closely.”