A gay marriage bill proposed in Denmark includes church weddings for gay and lesbian couples, Copenhagen-based daily Jyllands-Posten (The Copenhagen Post) reported.

If approved, gay couples will be allowed to marry and hold weddings in the Church of Denmark.

“It's historic, it's the biggest thing since female ministers were allowed in the Folkekirken,” Manu Sareen, the coalition government's church and equality minister, said on Wednesday. Sareen added that ceremonies might commence as early as next summer.

In 1989, Denmark legalized registered partnerships for gay couples – the first country to do so – but such unions are not allowed to be celebrated in the church.

Gay rights activists have cheered the move.

It's more than we had ever hoped for,” Vivi Jelstrup, chairman of LGBT Danmark, told Politiken. “Words mean so much and not being able to call yourself spouses today is a sign of inequality.”

Henrik Hojlund, chairman of the Evangelical Lutheran Network, said he opposes the plan, calling it “fatal for the church.”

While 7 European countries have legalized gay marriage, only 2 – Iceland and Sweden – allow full wedding ceremonies for gay couples.

Polls show that a large majority (69%) of Danes support allowing gay couples to marry in the church.