The Archbishop of Canterbury believes the Government lacks a mandate to redefine marriage because it was not in the election manifestos of the two coalition parties.
Dr Rowan Williams made the comments as he revealed there had been “several” meetings between the Church of England and Government ministers on the issue.
Speaking at a meeting of the Church’s General Synod in York, the Archbishop said one of the “many issues” raised during discussions was whether the Government had a mandate for the change.
He said: “The basis of the mandate for changing the state’s understanding of marriage given the lack of any commitment in the election manifestos of the main parties has been one of the many issues raised in those discussions.”
Dr Williams was asked whether he thought there was no Government mandate to redefine marriage.
“I think that would be a reasonable inference”, Dr Williams commented.
The Archbishop also said: “It is only right to note, however, that same-sex marriage now has the official support of all three main parties.”
Dr Williams’ comments follow the Church’s strong warning against redefining marriage.
In its official response to the Government’s consultation on the issue the Church warned that the plans could trigger a constitutional crisis and end the 500-year link between church and state.
It also described the plans as “divisive” and “essentially ideological”.
The Church commented: “To change the nature of marriage for everyone will be divisive and deliver no obvious legal gains given the rights already conferred by civil partnerships.”