European Union leaders could scrap a procedure that allows the public to call debates – after anti-gay groups plotted to force their issue on the agenda.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the current President of the European Commission, raised concern about the citizens’ initiative process.

A European citizens’ initiative is a procedure to create EU-wide legislation rolled out in 2011 via the European Commission.

Public proposals need to be backed by at least one million EU citizens, coming from at least 7 out of the 28 member states, in order to secure debate.

However, concern was raised at a European Commission meeting after anti-gay groups and Christian groups from across Europe sought approval for a petition calling for same-sex marriage to be banned.

The petition, titled ‘Mum, Dad & Kids: European Citizens’ Initiative to protect Marriage and Family’, calls for “an EU-wide definition” of marriage as between a man and a woman.

EU Vice-President Frans Timmermans explained that the petition complied with the “conditions of admissibility” – and that the Commission was “therefore bound to register [it]” – and to “take a policy decision on the substance”.

The minutes note that Members of the Commission expressed regret that the proecure “tended instead to involve highly controversial and emotionally charged issues of greater interest to minorities than to the vast majority of EU citizens”.

It warned that the proposals did not always “move European law or the European project forward”, but instead “generated Euroscepticism”.

The Commission “called for a debate on how to rectify this situation”, with President Juncker agreeing to discuss the future of the matter early in 2016.

The anti-gay petition, which is yet to start gathering signatures, explains: “The EU has therefore an urgent need for clear and precise definitions of marriage and the family.

“Of course, it is necessary that these definitions should contribute to European unity by being based on the common foundation of all Member States, that which reflects the universal reality of humanity – marriage between man and woman, and the bonds of father, mother, child.

“There are surely many people who can clearly see the fact that to consciously deprive a child of a father or a mother, and likely parentage, is both unjust and an aberration.

“Respect for marriage between a man and a woman, and for the links that bind father, mother and child, is essential.

“If we succeed to get a very high number of signatures, our appeal will force its way onto the European political agenda.”