LONDON, December 12, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The head of the UK’s Campaign for Marriage (C4M) has accused the government of ignoring the opinions of half a million Britons and running a “sham” consultation on same-sex “marriage”. Colin Hart said that when he presented the group’s petition in support of traditional marriage, signed by over 500,000, he had been given assurances by the government that each signature would be considered officially as part of the consultation.

The criticism comes as the government announced on Tuesday that a bill would be brought forward to introduce gay “marriage” in the New Year. Equalities Minister Maria Miller said that wording will be included to forbid the Church of England, the established church, from participating. Miller said, however, that other religious groups would be able to “opt in”.

Leaders of the Church of England, the Anglican Church of Wales and the Catholic Church, as well as legal experts and MPs have expressed concerns that should gay “marriage” be created, the practice would fall under the provisions of the Equalities Act. This would make it illegal discrimination to refuse to conduct a marriage ceremony based on sexual orientation.

“The decision to ignore a petition of half a million people is disgraceful and undemocratic and goes against assurances from civil servants that all submissions would be treated equally and fairly,” Colin Hart told media.

“All those who have signed the petition which the Government has now chosen to ignore deserve to be told why their name on a petition, which includes their address and signature, has been airbrushed out, while completely anonymous internet questionnaires have been counted.”

The government claimed this week that the consultation, based on 228,000 online response forms, found that a majority support the plan to redefine civil marriage. The Telegraph, however, reports that the numbers were extremely close, and that MPs were told that between 52 and 53 percent were in favor. These numbers, the Telegraph confirmed, do not include the 500,000 who signed C4M’s petition.

Conservative MP David Burrowes said, “If they want to rely on those figures it is wholly disingenuous. It makes the consultation a sham in terms of justifying this on the back of numerical support, given that 500,000 people were ignored and they have accepted all-comers from around the globe.”

Burrowes said that the consultation results were so ambiguous that there is a strong case for a referendum.

MP Edward Leigh, a former Tory cabinet minister, told the government on Monday that the state has “no right to redefine marriage.” Leigh, a Catholic known for his opposition to abortion and contraception, said the consultation has been the government’s “biggest ever,” with four times the number of responses of any previous consultation.

He expressed dismay that Prime Minister David Cameron had failed to warn Parliament that the government would be inserting language to allow “same-sex marriages” in churches. An issue of such importance, he said, should have come first before the House of Commons.

“The consultation specifically excluded same-sex marriage in churches,” Leigh told the House. “It was about civil marriage. Now that the government has done a U-turn on this matter, will there be a brand new consultation?”

Leigh expressed concern that the change “greatly increases the chance of human rights litigation that would force churches against their will to have same-sex marriages.” He said the government needs to launch a separate consultation on the issue.

Equalities Minister Maria Miller responded, denying that the Prime Minister had brought “anything new” to the table this weekend. “He simply restated the government’s position” and “expressed a personal view regarding the possible role for churches.”