Britain and the US are just two of many battlegrounds in today’s silent world war that surrounds the institution of marriage. It is a conflict that has engulfed the developed world since 2001.
A few weeks ago, New Zealand became the latest country to vote in favour of amending its definition of marriage, allowing homosexual couples the same marital status as same-sex couples.
The Antipodean country’s move to alter the definition did not receive the same level of media interest as France’s, which happened only a few weeks earlier. France’s conflict ended in massive street protests, as hundreds of thousands of people turned out in support of the God-given definition of marriage, as being between one man and one woman for life.
According to the BBC, Denmark was the first country to introduce civil partnerships for same-sex couples, in 1989, but it stopped short of allowing church weddings. Countries including Norway, Sweden and Iceland followed suit, in allowing partnerships that offer many, but not all, the rights and obligations of marriage.
However, it was not until 2001 that the Netherlands led the way in allowing gay marriage, which included granting same-sex couples the right to adopt children.
In June 2003, the Vatican attempted to prevent further countries from allowing gay marriage after Belgium voted to allow it. The Catholic Church was, therefore, the first religious organisation to launch a concerted, global, well-funded campaign to protect the traditional definition of marriage.
In 2005, Spain voted same-sex marriage in, despite a Catholic-led petition of more than 600,000 names. At the time of writing, the UK’s Coalition for Marriage campaign petition has 655,874 names.
Canadian provinces have always had discretion to permit same-sex marriage, but in 2005 Canada enshrined it in its national legislation. A highly publicised court of appeal ruling ushered in same-sex marriage in South Africa, in November 2006.
After this, came Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina, Denmark, Uruguay, France and New Zealand.
In the USA this year, more states have opened their doors to same-sex marriages. Rhode Island became the tenth state, after Governor Lincoln Chafee signed the bill.
Intense lobbying from the gay rights movement is seeking to bring other North American states into line. Increasingly, Christian politicians and public figures there are being dragged into the media spotlight if they stand against the trend.
In the UK also, legal, political and activist pressure is being brought to bear on an already favourable Coalition Government to amend the laws and allow gay marriage.
Early in February, MPs voted in favour of it and, although there is now a period of consultation, the Equal Marriage Bill is due before the upper chamber, the House of Lords, in only a matter of weeks.
There has been growing pressure for HM The Queen to activate statutory powers to veto this bill, using powers enshrined in the constitution, but not employed for more than 300 years. Last month, ET carried a story about the feasibility of her ratifying something that goes against her constitutional coronation vows.
Whether HM The Queen decides to read out those lines of affirmation of gay marriage, from a speech written for her by Parliament, is at the moment uncertain. But will the Monarchy — the professed defender of Christian faith — bow to a vociferous minority?
Even if she were to refuse to sign the bill, it is unlikely that it would end the fight, but it would certainly push the lines of battle a long way back.
In the UK, given these intense global political pressures, it seems not so much a question of ‘if’ gay marriage becomes law, as ‘when’. However, we should never forget that the Lord can choose to prevent it, since he is sovereign in the affairs of all nations.
We should remember too that God often allows evil to triumph for a while, in his profoundly inscrutable plans for achieving his holy purposes — witness the events that surrounded the crucifixion of his Son, but led to Christ’s redeeming work at Calvary (Acts 2:23).
Moreover, it has often been God’s method of demonstrating to men and women the folly of their sin by letting them feel first-hand its bitter consequences. It was only when the prodigal son was famished in body and soul and among the filth of the pigs that he came to his senses and said, ‘I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you’ (Luke 15:18-19).
There is undoubtedly a bitter harvest yet to be reaped from normalising homosexual behaviour. But true Christians everywhere will want to pray that this global push be halted in its tracks and driven back (peaceably).
Why? First, because we love our neighbours as ourselves and would see them spared the moral devastation that will hit their homes, families and personal lives, in the wake of gay marriage.
And second, but more important, because we love the Lord and his wholesome Word, that reflects his glorious character — a character perfectly revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ.