Bishop of Leicester Timothy Stevens underscored the church's official view that "marriage is a union between one man and one woman — a social institution that predates both church and state and has been the glue that has bound countless successive societies together."
Anglicans are divided on the issue, however. Richard Harries, a former bishop of Oxford, told the House of Lords that "a good number of members of the Church of England warmly welcome the government's position."
"Privately a fair number of individual bishops in the Church of England also support it but are not able to say so publicly at the moment," he said.
The bill is likely to have enough support in Parliament to become law. Gay marriage is backed by Britain's Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron and many of his Cabinet, as well as by most lawmakers from the Liberal Democrat and Labour parties.
But some traditionalist members of Cameron's Conservative Party remain strongly opposed.
"I would like to ask the Secretary of State and the government what right have they got, other than arrogance and intolerance, to stamp their legislative boot on religious faith?" said lawmaker Richard Drax.