In her statement to the Commons, Maria Miller said today's proposals protected "important religious freedoms while ensuring that same-sex couples have the same freedom to marry as opposite-sex couples".
The Conservative Equalities Minister later pleaded for both sides in the row to show "respect" as she was confronted with opposition to the plan from MPs in her own party.
Shadow equalities minister Yvette Cooper condemned the "hysterical" language used by Tory MPs and churches opposed to the move.
Same-sex marriage will remain illegal in the Church of England, as the Government unveiled its plans to extend marriage to gay couples.
David Cameron is facing a backlash from Tory MPs and religious groups over allowing gay weddings in churches.