Nick Clegg’s plan to force all of his MPs to vote for gay marriage has been branded an “imperious display of illiberalism” by an editorial in the Daily Mail.
The Deputy Prime Minister’s decision came after David Cameron opted to give all Conservative MPs – including ministers – a free vote on the matter.
But today’s edition of the Mail criticises Mr Clegg for “denying his MPs a free vote on the hugely complex moral question”.
The paper continues: “Instead, he orders them to support the controversial Bill, arguing bizarrely that since it will apply only to civil weddings, it is ‘not a matter of conscience’.
“Leave aside that if this measure passes, churches may have to conduct such services because of human rights law.
“As both sides of the debate agree, civil gay marriage would represent a hugely significant step to overturning the teachings of millennia by proclaiming the exact moral equivalence of heterosexual and homosexual pairings.
“The Mail supports civil partnerships. But how can marriage be anything other than a matter for MPs’ consciences?”
The Westminster Government is currently holding a public consultation on its plans to rewrite the definition of marriage.
However, over half a million people have already signed a petition opposing any change to the current definition.
Earlier this month Owen Paterson, the Northern Ireland Secretary, became the first Cabinet Minister to openly oppose the plans.
A number of other ministers, including Secretary of Defence Philip Hammond, have expressed reservations.
Earlier this week it emerged that the Government’s plans to redefine marriage are the number one issue in MPs’ postbags.
The ComRes survey also revealed that just four per cent of MPs think that implementing same-sex marriage is a key priority for their constituents.