Portsmouth’s Catholic Bishop has spoken out against the government’s recently announced plans to bring forward marriage equality next year, saying that it would “pervert authentic family values”.

Bishop Philip Egan, who was ordained in September, said this morning that he thought even the option for religious institutions to marry same-sex couples was wrong, reported Portsmouth.co.uk.

Speaking in favour of equal marriage last Friday, David Cameron said he did not want gay couples to be excluded from a “great institution”.

Culture Secretary, Maria Miller, announced this afternoon that the government plans to bring forward a marriage equality bill in 2013, and that religious institutions, except the Church of England for which it will be illegal, will be allowed to “opt-in” to performing same-sex ceremonies. Bishop Egan said:

“Mr Cameron said he is an enthusiastic supporter of marriage and he does not want gay people to be excluded from a great institution.

“Yet however well-intentioned, and despite huge opposition from Christians, Jews and Muslims alike, by attempting to change the natural meaning of marriage, he seems utterly determined to undermine one of the key foundations of our society.

“He is luring the people of England away from their common Christian values and forcing upon us a brave new world, artificially engineered.

“To extend marriage to gay people he intends to impose the will of a tiny minority on the vast majority.

“If the Prime Minister proceeds, he will pervert authentic family values with catastrophic consequences for the wellbeing and behaviour of future generations.”

Clare Dussek, the University of Portsmouth’s LGBT officer, said: “I’m disappointed at Bishop Egan’s lack of realisation that everybody is equal.

“I recognise this is a difficult 
country in terms of contradictions of ideologies – there are people who wish to uphold the traditional Christian ethos and there are those who wish true love and happiness upon every human being.

“The bishop seems to be completely disregarding anyone else’s right to equality… It worries me he thinks David Cameron’s support of gay marriage is harmful and he dismisses the love between two women or two men.”

In the government’s announcement this afternoon, which made clear that religious groups would have to “opt-in” to performing same-sex marriages, Ms Miller said:

“Marriage is one of the most important institutions we have in this country. It binds us together, brings long-term commitment and stability, and makes society stronger. Our proposals mean that marriage would be available to everyone. I feel strongly that, if a couple wish to show their love and commitment to each other, the state should not stand in their way”.

Although the Catholic Church and Church of England are opposed to equal marriage, faith groups such as the Quakers, and Liberal Judaism support marriage rights for gay couples and have also stated they would like to provide the ceremonies.