Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has endorsed an effort to legalize gay marriage in the country, The Independent On Sunday reported.

The UK's ruling party, the Conservative Party, which governs in coalition with the Liberal Democrats, last September unveiled plans to make gay nuptials legal before 2015. Gay and lesbian couples are currently recognized with civil partnerships, which offer most of the legal protections of marriage. Heterosexual couples are not allowed to enter a civil partnership.

The government is expected to release a consultation document detailing its plans on the law next week.

Prime Minister David Cameron, the head of the Conservative Party, supports the move, saying it promotes conservative values such as commitment.

Blair, a Roman Catholic since 2007, is quoted as telling friends that he “strongly supports the Prime Minister's proposal.”

Religious leaders – including senior figures in the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England – have sharply criticized the government's plans.

On Friday, Pope Benedict XVI called on visiting U.S. bishops to fight the “powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage.”