They sneered at Bishop Gilbert’s suggestion that gay marriage would lead to unions between one man and two women. Well, now it’s happened

David Cameron (PA)

You may remember that earlier this month, I wrote about “controversial” remarks made by Bishop Hugh Gilbert of Aberdeen, who, when asked a question about the Scottish government’s plans to introduce gay “marriage”, replied that “The truth is that a government can pass any legislation it likes. Why is it all right for a man to marry another man, but not all right for him to marry two women? If we really want equality, why does that equality not extend to nieces who genuinely, truly love their uncles?”

Not unexpectedly, his remarks provoked scornful rejoinders from supporters of gay unions (marriage or not). One of them, underneath my piece, protested that “There is no political movement to make [polygamous] marriage legal. All attempts to claim that [polygamous marriage] is equivalent to same-sex marriage have failed. The claim that same-sex marriage will lead to [polygamous] marriage has been made by anti-gay campaigners for years, and has – in 11 countries so far – always been shown to be mere malicious scaremongering.”

Well, we now have polygamous civil unions (and don’t tell me that that’s not “marriage”: it’s the first step towards it, and was always intended to be so). Three people have been allowed to enter into a civil union in the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo, the Telegraph reported earlier this week. Claudia do Nascimento Domingues, a public notary, granted the request for a civil union of one man and two women, saying there is nothing in law that prevents such an arrangement. The union was estabished formally three months ago but only became public this week.

“We are only recognising what has always existed. We are not inventing anything,” said Ms Domingues. “For better or worse, it doesn’t matter, but what we considered a family before isn’t necessarily what we would consider a family today.”

You can say that again. Dr Patricia Morgan, the most important sociologist specialising in family policy today, told Simon Caldwell on this site’s homepage that she was not surprised by the ruling, and pointed out that similar attempts have been made in the Netherlands. She said that the proliferation of a range of relationships that will be legally considered equalvalent to marriage was inevitable once the institution had been redefined. And surely she is right: does anybody (anybody, that is, who isn’t trying for their own ends to underplay the disruptively revolutionary nature of what is now going on) seriously contest that this is one of the most inevitable slippery slopes we have seen for years?

“In the Netherlands,” continues Dr Morgan, “to be equal they opened up civil partnerships to heterosexuals as well as to gays but then found that there were these three-in-a-bed relationships that were seeking legal recognition; I think it is all part of the cause. Once you break away from one man and one woman, what do you expect? Once you allow two men [to marry], where are your boundaries?” Precisely: you haven’t just effected a minor readjustment: you have torn down the walls protecting the institution itself: anything goes. “People say this won’t happen,” she continues, “but where does it stop? You are going to get polygamy from Muslims, aren’t you? People are simply shutting their eyes if they think that this is not going to happen.”

Dr Morgan (who I have written about before in this column) is one of the few sensible sociologists around, and she is a specialist on the family, and particularly on the dire consequences for children of families which are not based on two married parents (of opposite sex): her classic study Marriage-Lite: The Rise of Cohabitation and its Consequences is available from Civitas as a free download.

And she has surely put her finger on the whole point. Marriage is not simply there for the good of those involved. “Part of the problem,” she says, “is the modern view of marriage as a [private relationship] based on subjective definitions of ‘love’. This is to the exclusion of its wider purpose as a public contract serving the common good by supporting the procreation and education of future generations.”

Precisely. Do you remember Theresa May’s declaration of support for “gay marriage” (the same slushy declaration that we hear on all sides): “I believe if two people care for each other, if they love each other, if they want to commit to each other and spend the rest of their lives together then they should be able to get married and that marriage should be for everyone.” And what if three people care for each other? Why not? Marriage should be for everyone. Back to Bishop Gilbert: “The truth is that a government can pass any legislation it likes. Why is it all right for a man to marry another man, but not all right for him to marry two women?”

As I write, the petition for the government to respect the immemorial understanding of marriage as being between one man and one woman (sign it now, if you haven’t already) has reached the stratospheric level of 597, 226 signatures. Oh, and for those who rejoin that that’s only a tiny proportion of the population as a whole, the reply is, of course, that most people don’t sign petitions. The point is that this is one of the highest figures ever (it may be the highest) for an online petition: and the equivalent pro gay-marriage petition (“I support the right of two people in love to get married, regardless of gender. It’s only fair”) has after some months edged up to a comparatively paltry 62, 695, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t manage very much more: it certainly won’t get anywhere near half a million.

So the support in the population at large for marriage as traditionally understood is massive and preponderant. But will that be reflected in a falling away of Cameron’s incomprehensible enthusiasm for this revolutionary change? We shall see; but I have a nasty feeling about all this.