Today MPs approved changes to laws dating back hundreds of years – including preventing a gay King’s ‘husband’ becoming Queen – ahead of next month’s same-sex marriages.
A committee of MPs voted in favour of a draft order, which also stops the title Princess of Wales being given to a man in a same-sex marriage with a future Prince of Wales.
Critics said the move was “unprecedented” and proved that the Government’s Bill legalising same-sex marriage was “ill thought out”.
Colin Hart, Campaign Director of the Coalition for Marriage said: “We repeatedly warned that the Government’s plans were ill thought out, complicated and would have a damaging effect on those who support traditional marriage.”
“Those warnings were dismissed, yet just a few months later we have Ministers engaged in an unprecedented and systematic drive to airbrush out of law words like husband, wife and widow in order to make the legislation work.”
He added: “It is clear the Government is in a complete mess, which could have been prevented had they engaged in an open and meaningful debate, instead of ramming this through Parliament.
“These changes cover legislation going back nearly 800 years, affecting legislation covering inheritance, taxation, social security and children.”
The amendments mean the terms “husband” and “wife” will be replaced in many pieces of legislation.
And if Dukes, Earls and other male Peers marry other men, their ‘husbands’ could not be made Duchesses, Countesses or Ladies.
The draft order sets out amendments to 36 Acts dating back to 1869, along with exclusions from the effects of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act for certain common law rights and 67 pieces of legislation, including the Second Statute of Westminster from 1285.
The Treason Act of 1351, which makes it high treason to “violate the King’s companion” – meaning the husband or wife of the monarch – or that of the heir, is also excluded from the remit of the new legislation.
A spokeswoman from the Government confirmed that it would still be considered high treason to sleep with a King’s wife, but not his ‘husband’ if they were in a same-sex marriage.
A family lawyer explained that now marriage has been redefined, the law needs to be “tidied up” regarding royal titles to avoid uncertainties.
Julian Lipson, head of the family law practice at Withers LLP, said: “The route the Government has chosen seems to be to admit that the equalness of same-sex marriage has its limits”.
“They presumably don’t want to end up with the situation of, for example, there being two duchesses or a man with the title of duchess”, he added.
The first same-sex marriages are set to be conducted on 29 March.