David Cameron should ask the public for their view on redefining marriage before ploughing ahead with “the most fundamental change to society in centuries”, Ann Widdecombe has said.
The former MP said if the Prime Minister “insists on pushing ahead” with the change then there should be a referendum on the issue.
Miss Widdecombe made the comments as she warned the Government that “it is simply not true that only the Church is opposed to redefining marriage”.
Writing in her column for The Daily Express, Miss Widdecombe explained that there is widespread opposition to any redefinition of marriage.
She said: “I know gays who oppose this measure – as does Christopher Biggins – and one can hardly call them homophobic.
“People who never go inside a church from one year to the next oppose it.
“Some of those who spoke out in favour of civil partnerships oppose it. Writers on Left-wing newspapers oppose it.”
She commented that it suited government ministers “to paint a picture in which everyone wants gay marriage except the Church”.
But the former MP said that a similar “ploy” has been used in debates over abortion and euthanasia.
“I have no doubt that as gay marriage is debated we shall see bishops deployed against gay activists but it is simply not true that only the Church is opposed to redefining marriage”, she said.
Miss Widdecombe also pointed to an opinion poll which suggests 86 per cent of people agree that it is possible to be tolerant of the rights of others and protective of traditional marriage at the same time.
Her comments came after Lynne Featherstone, the Government’s equalities minister, said the church does not own marriage and “it is the Government’s fundamental job” to “shape the future”.
But a spokesman for the campaign group Coalition for Marriage commented that marriage “isn’t owned by Lynne Featherstone either, yet she seems determined to rewrite the definition of marriage over the heads of the people”.
The Coalition for Marriage petition, which supports the current definition of marriage and opposes any redefinition, can be signed here.