The Government’s proposals to redefine marriage are a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right”, Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic has warned.
Cardinal Keith O’Brien accused David Cameron of trying to “redefine reality” at the “behest of a small minority of activists”.
And he urged members of the public to sign a petition, organised by the Coalition for Marriage, in support of the traditional definition of marriage. It has already attracted over 100,000 signatures.
In a strongly worded article for The Sunday Telegraph the Cardinal said: “As an institution, marriage long predates the existence of any state or government. It was not created by governments and should not be changed by them.
“Instead, recognising the innumerable benefits which marriage brings to society, they should act to protect and uphold marriage, not attack or dismantle it.”
The Cardinal dismissed claims that the Government’s proposals were about rights, saying that “all the legal rights of marriage are already available to homosexual couples”.
Cardinal O’Brien, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, warned that any change to the current definition would have a huge impact on society.
He said: “The repercussions of enacting same-sex marriage into law will be immense. But can we simply redefine terms at a whim?
“Can a word whose meaning has been clearly understood in every society throughout history suddenly be changed to mean something else?
“If same-sex marriage is enacted into law what will happen to the teacher who wants to tell pupils that marriage can only mean – and has only ever meant – the union of a man and a woman?
“Will that teacher’s right to hold and teach this view be respected or will it be removed?”
He added: “If marriage can be redefined so that it no longer means a man and a woman but two men or two women, why stop there?”
The Government is expected to launch a consultation on redefining marriage later this month.