Marriage should not be redefined in law, the Archbishop of Canterbury warned yesterday in a speech about human rights.
Dr Rowan Williams said that some religious communities “feel that alien cultural standards are somehow being imposed – particularly in regard to inherited views of marriage and family.”
He added: “If it is said, for example, that a failure to legalise assisted suicide – or indeed same-sex marriage – perpetuates stigma or marginalisation for some people, the reply must be, I believe, that issues like stigma and marginalisation have to be addressed at the level of culture rather than law.”
He also said there is “anxiety that law is being used proactively to change culture – one of the chief anxieties of some religious people faced with developments in the application of rights.”
And he said that while law has a role to play in advancing rights “this falls short of a legal charter to promote change in institutions, even in language”.
Dr Williams, the head of the Anglican Church, made his comments during a speech on human rights.
The Government is expected to launch a consultation next month on how, not if, to rewrite the definition of marriage.
However Ann Widdecombe, the former Conservative MP, has called for the contentious issue to be put to a public vote.
She insisted that David Cameron must put the matter to the people saying: “If he insists on pushing ahead then I challenge him to hold a referendum.
“The redefinition of marriage is too big an issue for the state to foist on an unwilling population.”
Earlier this month a new grassroots campaign group committed to defending the traditional definition of marriage was launched.
Coalition for Marriage has gathered more than 60,000 signatures against the move in just over a week.
In America a 14-year-old girl received death threats after she took a stand for the traditional definition of marriage.