The Government’s plans to redefine marriage could trigger a constitutional crisis and end the 500-year link between church and state, the Church of England has warned.
In its response to the Government’s consultation on the matter the Church describes the plans as “divisive” and “essentially ideological”.
It dismisses the Government’s attempts to create a distinction between “civil” and “religious” marriages, saying “this is to mistake the wedding ceremony for the institution of marriage”.
It warns that changing the definition of marriage would also change the nature of marriages solemnised in churches and other places of worship.
According to the Church, redefining marriage “would alter the intrinsic nature of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, as enshrined in human institutions throughout history”.
The Church adds: “To change the nature of marriage for everyone will be divisive and deliver no obvious legal gains given the rights already conferred by civil partnerships.
“We also believe that imposing for essentially ideological reasons a new meaning on a term as familiar and fundamental as marriage would be deeply unwise.”
The Church also dismisses the Government’s assurances on religious liberty, warning that human rights legislation could be used to force churches to conduct same-sex weddings.
It cautioned that redefining marriage would lead to an unprecedented clash between the Church’s canon law and that of Parliament, challenging the establishment of the Church of England.
Colin Hart, campaign director of the Coalition for Marriage, said: “The Church of England is right. The Government’s plan will redefine marriage for everyone, damaging the very nature of marriage as a place for nurturing children, and it will plunge churches into legal chaos.”
Ben Summerskill, from the homosexual lobby group Stonewall, said: “There’s manifestly no evidence that the recognition of long-term same-sex relationships has any impact on the institution of marriage for heterosexuals.”
A petition in support of the current definition of marriage, organised by the Coalition for Marriage, has well over half a million signatures.