The statutory definition of marriage as only ever the union of one man and one woman goes back to the Attlee Government. Before that, it had always been presupposed. But its iron-cladding by means of the Statute Law was the work of the greatest Labour Government, and of the longest-serving Leader in the Labour Party's history. Now, though, from the Prime Minister who wanted to give Peter Tatchell a peerage, comes the proposal for "gay marriage". That proposal would be rejected by Barack Obama, and it was rejected by the voters of California and Florida on the same day as they gave their Electoral College votes to Obama.
Unlike a civil partnership, which therefore ought not to be restricted to unrelated same-sex couples, a marriage has to be consummated. The Supreme Governor of the Church of England and Defender of the Faith (the present title is not the one conferred by the Pope on Henry VIII, but the one conferred by a Protestant Parliament on his son, Edward VI) could not have signed a Bill which, for the first time, actually required, in order to receive some legal benefit or privilege, engagement in sexual relations other than those between one man and one woman in marriage. The Supreme Governor of the Church of England and Defender of the Faith still cannot do so.
Nevertheless, we should seize this opportunity to propose something better. The extension to relatives of the right to contract civil partnerships. The entitlement of each divorcing spouse to one per cent of the other's estate for each year of marriage, up to 50 per cent, and the disentitlement of the petitioning spouse unless fault be proved, thereby restoring the situation whereby, by recognising adultery and desertion as faults in divorce cases, society declared in law its disapproval of them even though they were not in themselves criminal offences.
The entitlement of any marrying couple to register their marriage as bound by the law prior to 1969 as regards grounds and procedures for divorce, and to enable any religious organisation to specify that any marriage which it conducts shall be so bound, requiring it to counsel couples accordingly. And the statutory specification that the Church of England be such a body unless the General Synod specifically resolve the contrary by a two-thirds majority in all three Houses, with something similar for the Methodist and United Reformed Churches, which also exist pursuant to Acts of Parliament, as well as by amendment to the legislation relating to the restoration of the Catholic hierarchy.
That would be a start, anyway. It is astonishing that no major party is opposed to same-sex "marriage", just as it is that no major party gives expression to all sorts of mainstream opinions in the country at large. Ed Miliband is, I suspect, in favour of it. A lot of people are. But by making the above his and his party's conditions for supporting it, then he would both be doing what was right, and, as in so many other ways of siding with Mail and Telegraph readers (even if not writers) against the Government, doing what was electorally opportune. So, Ed Miliband, over to you.