The equalities minister, Lynne Featherstone, has been told that she does not own marriage and she should not redefine it over the heads of the British people.
The criticism came after she published an article in Saturday’s Daily Telegraph about her plans to change the meaning of marriage.
She said the church does not own marriage and “it is the Government’s fundamental job” to “shape the future”.
But critics hit back, saying marriage does not belong to the Government and nobody voted for marriage to be redefined.
The Coalition for Marriage – a grassroots group that supports the current definition of marriage – said Lynne Featherstone does not have public support.
A spokesman said: “She says marriage isn’t owned by the church. Well, it isn’t owned by Lynne Featherstone either, yet she seems determined to rewrite the definition of marriage over the heads of the people.
“In her article, she says that marriage belongs to the people. But why, then, has she never asked the people if they want marriage to be redefined? Why did her party, the Lib Dems, never put it in their manifesto?
“In fact, it wasn’t in the manifestos of any of the major parties. Nobody voted for this. There is no mandate for such a monumental change to a key institution like marriage.
“If Lynne Featherstone thinks marriage belongs to the people, why has the forthcoming consultation been touted around as if it’s a done deal? For months the Government has been saying it will be a ‘how’, not ‘if’, consultation.
“They’ve been referring to it as a ‘nuts and bolts’ exercise. They’ve been acting as though marriage belongs to them, to be redefined however and whenever they like.
“The British people – in their thousands – have signed our petition to say don’t meddle with marriage. A majority of the public (51%) don’t want marriage redefined, given that all the rights of marriage are already available to same-sex couples through civil partnerships.
“If Lynne Featherstone really believes marriage belongs to the people, why isn’t she listening to them?”
In her article, Lynne Featherstone said: “The fierce debate over the past few weeks has shown people feel very strongly about marriage. Some believe the Government has no right to change it at all; they want to leave tradition alone.
“I want to challenge that view – it is the Government’s fundamental job to reflect society and to shape the future, not stay silent where it has the power to act and change things for the better.”