Controversial proposals to legalise gay marriage were discussed by ministers at a meeting of the cabinet in Edinburgh.
They said, however, that further examination was needed before a final decision on whether to bring forward legislation is reached.
The Government said a clear decision would be announced by the end of the month, as it ruled out a referendum on the issue.
The Equality Network and the Scottish Youth Parliament both expressed disappointment while Labour said the SNP had displayed weak leadership.
Ministers had already delayed making a decision from the spring, stating that they needed more time to consider the large number of responses to the public consultation.