On Saturday the newspapers were filled with pictures of joyful couples. As the first same-sex ‘weddings’ were celebrated, three messages came over loud and clear from many media commentators.
Firstly, anyone who wouldn’t join the joyful celebrations was morally beneath contempt.
Secondly, those who refused to ‘join the dance’ had a duty to ‘catch up’ with the rest of society.
Thirdly, if any in the Christian Church persisted in refusing to endorse same-sex ‘marriage’, then, in the name of ‘equality’ they should be forced to conform to the new legal definition of (genderless) marriage.
The result? Some of those who were brave enough to call into radio phone-ins to affirm belief in marriage as a man-woman union also felt the need to apologise for that belief.
And many of them were told that in this brave new world their life-long convictions are now out of order.
Yet, amid all the clamour of the celebrations, and amid the condemnation of those who wouldn’t join the party, a few voices of reason were heard.
The new marriage law might have passed, but the debate is not over.
The government can rewrite law. It can attempt to rewrite language with the recent ludicrous efforts to airbrush gendered language out of the statute book. But it cannot change reality.
A same-sex couple, no matter how loving and committed, cannot join the gendered institution that, from the beginning of time, has been recognised as marriage.
By ‘joining’ it they change it to being a ‘gender-free’ relationship. In other words a relationship that is not properly marriage at all.
On Friday, art historian Brian Sewell eloquently expressed the beliefs of those gay people who don’t believe in same-sex ‘marriage.’
Since the institution of civil partnerships there has been no impediment to their celebration with a party as extravagant as any wedding . . . Most of us are content with what we now have within the law, and are happy to respect the deeply-held belief of sincere, thoughtful and informed Christians for whom marriage is the one sacrament in which we cannot share. We have wasted our resources on the wrong campaign . . .
Likewise, columnist Andrew Pierce (who says he is happy living in a civil partnership) was scathing about the new law which ‘fundamentally changes the definition of marriage.’
Heterosexual, married politicians like David Cameron saw a cynical opportunity to burnish their touchy-feely, liberal credentials by pushing for gay marriage.
In doing so, they not only offended millions of people by arrogantly redefining the meaning of the relationship between a man and a woman that has been the bedrock of society for thousands of years.
They also placed the Church in an invidious position by suggesting it had a moral duty to perform gay marriage ceremonies when vast numbers of clergy and ordinary church-goers are opposed to them.
Worst of all, the gay marriages they have introduced do not make gay couples more ‘equal’ in any meaningful way.
Mr Cameron could easily have avoided the quagmire of gay marriage, while promoting true equality for gay couples, by bolstering the rights of those who enter civil partnerships.
Surely in a democratic country, proud of our tradition of freedom of speech and expression, we should resist the intolerance creeping into public discourse.
We need to accept that it is perfectly possible to love and value people, and yet disagree on fundamental matters of principle.
Over the weekend, many of us who believe that marriage is and can only be the union of a man and a woman were told that it is offensive even to voice that belief.
But that is precisely why we should go on voicing it! Politicians and media commentators don’t have any right to coerce the consciences of large sections of the population, including many in the major faith communities.
They can’t change reality, and we don’t have to join the dance.
Sharon James is a spokesperson for the Coalition for Marriage. Her booklet The Meaning of Marriage How the sexual revolution has changed our understanding of society’s basic building block, (£2.50) is available from the Family Education Trust, www.famyouth.org.uk/