Sir John Major has backed David Cameron’s move to allow homosexuals to marry, telling Conservative critics and Church leaders they must “move on” and accept the change as part of 21st Century life.
The former Prime Minister backed Mr Cameron as the Coalition prepares to unveil its proposals to allow same-sex couples to marry, including in churches.
The proposed changes have been strongly criticised by some Conservative MPs, and some ministers are known to oppose the plan.
In a public message of support released today, Sir John praised his successor for making a “courageous and genuine attempt to offer security and comfort to people who – at present – may be together, yet feel apart.”
He added: “We live in the 21st Century and must move on: every couple should have the opportunity and the right to formalise their relationship.”
The most controversial aspect of this week’s proposals will be the suggestion that same-sex couples be permitted to marry in churches and other holy places.
Ministers say only those religious groups that wish to allow homosexual marriage will have to do so.
So far, the Quakers and some liberal Jewish synagogues have said they will, while the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church have said they will not.
Critics say the change will expose all faith groups to legal challenges that will eventually force them to conduct same-sex weddings. Mr Cameron has said that legal safeguards will be in place to prevent that.
“I fully understand that there are many who will find this difficult to accept, as will the Churches,” said Sir John.
“But the Prime Minister has made it clear that the Churches will be free to make their own decisions upon whether to conduct such marriages – and that is entirely the right approach.”