The Government has announced that it is considering fundamentally redefining marriage in law and imposing the new version on society, but the idea has already drawn widespread criticism.
Earlier today equalities minister Lynne Featherstone revealed that the Government will “formally look” at redefining marriage to allow homosexuals to obtain the same certifcate as married people.
It is being reported that the Government’s preferred option would also allow heterosexual couples to enter civil partnerships, a move which would cost £5 billion according to Stonewall.
The Equalities Office will also consult on plans to allow same-sex couples to register civil partnerships in churches for the first time.
The controversial news has already drawn opposition from a number of evangelical Christian organisations, representing thousands of churches, who have pledged to “firmly oppose” such moves.
And media commentators are also expressing concern at the prospect of marriage being redefined.
Michael White, writing on the Guardian’s politics blog earlier this week, said: “Aside from all the theological, moral and cultural freight, there’s an important practical distinction here which goes to the root of any society – namely that heterosexual marriage is there to produce and raise children in a more or less stable environment.”
Mr White, an Assistant Editor of The Guardian, went on to warn that no amount of technology could “eliminate the need for a female egg and a male sperm to make a baby. On that fact rest all successful societies since the year dot.”
His comments were echoed by Melanie Philips, writing in the Daily Mail, who said: “Gay rights supporters contend that there can be no justifiable objection to extending the status of marriage to those who are not heterosexual. Gay or straight — what does it matter, as long as two people are committed to each other?
“But those who make this argument merely reveal they have no idea of the significance of marriage. They seem to think it’s just another contractual arrangement involving a binding (or not so binding) commitment — like buying a house or a car.
“But the truth is that marriage is a unique institution because it involves the process by which humanity reproduces itself — which is only through the union of male and female.”
And last night the definition and importance of marriage was the subject of intense debate on BBC Radio 4’s Moral Maze programme.
Dan Boucher, one of the programme’s guests, warned that the traditional definition of marriage as being one man and one woman had lasted for thousands of years.
Dr Boucher, Director of Parliamentary Affairs at the Christian campaign group CARE, also questioned whether supporters of same-sex marriage have thought through its logical implications.
He said: “If you push marriage in that direction you could say well maybe anyone could get married, perhaps two sisters could get married.”
Homosexual couples have been able to enter into civil partnerships since 2005, but campaigners have recently been pushing for the fundamental redefinition of marriage.
In some American states homosexual marriage has been imposed through judicial activism. However, when the matter has been put to a vote of the American people, traditional marriage has been backed every time.