Writing for PinkNews, the Bishop of Buckingham, Dr Alan Wilson, says allowing same-sex couples to marry enriches the public understanding of what it means to be married.

This weekend marks a significant milestone on the way towards a more equal and just society. I welcome the good news wholeheartedly. I am sure all Christians will too, sooner or later, because equality and justice are core Christian values. Many Anglicans around the world and in our parishes, confused as we are about sexuality, are already delighted to see this come about.

Therefore my thoughts, hopes and prayers are very much with those who will be making marriage vows in the coming days and weeks. I look forward to the day when these vows can be made in Church. Like all marriages, gay people’s are based on profoundly personal and moral decisions and for many their wedding will be a sacred moment. Along with other couples, our love and prayers go with them in a special way because, as our wedding service says: “Marriage is a way of life that is holy and is a sign of unity and fidelity which all should uphold and honour.”

Marriage has survived and flourished down the ages by reinventing itself, but its strength in every generation comes from fulfilling and expressing the way we are created. Allowing gay people to marry enriches and expands the public understanding of marriage. It emphasise its core meaning as a partnership of equals. Over the past fifty years, an increasing number of people have been cagey about entering marriage because of all the baggage it seemed to carry of inequality, patriarchy and control. Allowing gay people to marry restores its public identity as a friendship of equals. It focuses on relationships rather than sex. There is actually a strong Christian tradition, including figures who may surprise some, like St Augustine and John Milton, that says what most makes marriage sacred is its stability and permanence as covenanted friendship, not sexual behaviour.

People in Britain have been reassessing the natural phenomenon of gayness over the century, increasingly openly and positively. The fact gay people can now marry will make future conversations far more real and honest, centred on real people not ideology.

Gay people are very much a part of most local congregations. The Church of England says it welcomes gay people. Now we have the opportunity to practise what we preach. Families and communities all over the country will now be able to celebrate loving stable faithful relationships for what they are, and often have been for years. Allowing gay people to marry is good for everybody, and I’m delighted. It’s time to stop talking about “gay marriage” — the legal, personal and social reality now is simply “marriage”.

Dr Alan Wilson is the Bishop of Buckingham .He regularly blogs, which can be accessed here. He Tweets at @AlanTLWilson