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London - The Church of England has objected to the government's proposal to permit gay marriages.

In a document released on Tuesday, the church insisted that its historic understanding of marriage is that it is a union of a man and a woman.

The church argued that gay couples already can enjoy many of the legal benefits of marriage through civil partnerships, which were introduced in 2005.

About a fourth of weddings in England take place in Church of England churches, which are legally obligated to provide a marriage service for any resident of a local parish, regardless of church membership.

Prime Minister David Cameron is backing the proposal for gay marriages, despite the strong opposition of some lawmakers in his Conservative Party. - Sapa-AP