That’s that then. Marriage will change, one way or another. Progress has won. Cue lots of right-on politicians talking about how proud they are to have ushered in such a historic reform. But what about the losing side? What should those Christians who believe that marriage must by definition be a union of man and woman do now? Accept and move on, I suppose. The best response is surely not to bleat on about a sinister ‘Orwellian’ state. But there’s another way. Since the politicians have changed the meaning of a word for political gain, perhaps Christian leaders should play the same game. They could move the definitional posts again, ditch the word marriage and talk only about ‘Holy Matrimony’ instead? Sounds ludicrously old-fashioned, I know. But read me out.
Matthew Parris argued very effectively in this magazine that the state should follow the South African example, ‘withdraw from the dictionary business’ and give exactly the same civic recognition to same-sex and hetero couples. The Catholic writer George Weigel, meanwhile, has urged the Church to remove itself from the secular marriage business altogether. But neither of those scenarios looks likely, especially since we have the Church of England. And now that our government has insisted on re-interpreting the M-word, maybe it’s time Christians did something equally radical, only this time by regressing to an older word. It’s not as if traditional marriage is thriving under its current definition. By emphasising the sacred and formal nature of Christian marriage, the words Holy Matrimony – even if they sound fogeyish now – might help steer the conventionally minded towards taking it more seriously.