The Daily Mail has published an editorial today questioning whether there is real public demand for allowing gay couples to marry.

The leader article begins: “Although the Government billed its plans for gay marriage as a ‘consultation document’, Home Office minister Lynne Featherstone left no doubt yesterday that the legislation is already a done deal.”

The consultation has been billed as being about ‘how’, rather than ‘whether’, the move for equality should go ahead, since its announcement in September 2011.

The Mail said Prime Minister David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May were “quite happy to trample over the vehement opposition of the mainstream churches and many grass-roots Conservatives” in securing marriage equality for gay couples.

The paper queries: “But is being doubtful about gay marriage really the same as being anti-gay?”

It continues: “This legislation – which not even Stonewall the most persistent gay rights group was agitating for – is not just about allowing homosexual couples to have a wedding rather than a civil partnership. It is about redefining an ancient and precious institution and recalibrating the entire way we speak about it.”

Stonewall had come under pressure from co-founders and other gay campaigners to adopt a position in favour of equal marriage, doing so in 2010.

The charity published a draft marriage equality bill this year listing the five legislative steps it considered necessary to implement equal marriage for gay couples.

The Daily Mail’s editorial concludes today: “But would gay marriage confer any more legal rights than civil partnership, and is there really a genuine demand for it?

“If there is, the Government certainly hasn’t demonstrated it, so is it fair that ministers should be bullying the Church so viciously over the issue?

“In trying so desperately not to be ‘nasty’, they are in danger of further undermining traditional marriage and riding roughshod over religious freedoms enshrined in British law and culture for centuries.”

The paper’s front page today reports on the necessity of amending official documents that currently refer to ‘husbands and wives’ in order to make sure they would refer to a gay couple accurately, calling it a “red tape revolution”.