You may have heard that the Government is determined to redefine marriage come what may. Don’t be fooled; they’re just trying to close down the debate.
They think people’s opposition to redefining marriage will melt away if it looks like a done deal. But it will actually do the opposite.
The British public have a keen sense of democracy and fair play. They won’t like it when politicians ignore huge swathes of decent people who have a sincere concern about marriage.
Instead of opposition melting away, the Government has in fact given a huge boost to people’s motivation on this issue.
The Government has already shown that it has been wrong-footed by the level of opposition to its plans.
For one thing, yesterday’s launch of the public consultation was about as low key as it is possible to be.
There was no slick launch in front of the nation’s media. There was no grand speech in Parliament, just a brief written statement.
And the two ministers who are responsible for the consultation – Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone and Home Secretary Theresa May – were conspicuous by their absence from the TV news studios.
It shows the Government has been surprised and concerned by the level of opposition.
There’s more evidence. The Government has – reluctantly – added a consultation question asking the public whether they agree with the principle.
Going by their previous statements, they had no intention of including that question. But they decided to do it after the significant level of opposition became apparent.
And “significant” is the right word. Leading public figures have spoken out – politicians, academics, lawyers and church leaders have expressed their concerns.
The leaders of the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church have spoken of their opposition to redefining marriage in law.
Several national newspapers have taken a clear editorial line, either against the whole idea of redefining marriage or calling for the public to be allowed a voice.
And almost a quarter of a million people have signed a national petition run by the Coalition for Marriage to keep marriage as it is. That is a staggering number of signatures for a petition that has only been running for less than one month.
But, although the Government is now asking the public’s opinion, the Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone has said marriage will be redefined whether the public likes it or not.
The Government’s position is astonishingly undemocratic and high-handed.
But it’s also an attempt to scare off any opposition. The essential (and rather hopeful) message is ‘resistance is futile, so don’t even bother’.
The Government is trying to demoralise those who support the current definition of marriage. But it will only make us more determined to show that we care about marriage and its place in our society. Public opinion is moving in our direction, and there is all to play for.