After the Archbishop of Westminster calls the government's gay marriage plans a "shambles", a high court judge says the proposals are the "wrong policy" and affect a minority of the population.

Judge joins Church in attack on gay marriage plans (G)

Sir Paul Coleridge, who sits in the family division, said that the proposals affect just "0.1 per cent of the population" and accused ministers of wasting time on the issue.

Instead, they should focus on the more widespread issues of family breakdown and create policies to support already married couples, he said.

"So much energy and time has been put into this debate for 0.1 per cent of the population, when we have a crisis of family breakdown," he said in an interview with The Times newspaper.

"While it is gratifying that marriage in any context is centre stage...but it (gay marriage) is a minority issue. We need a more focused position by the government on the importance of marriage."

'Mend it, not end it'

Sir Paul's comments come after the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, attacked the government's gay marriage bill, labelling it "undemocratic" and a "shambles".

The judge last year launched independent charity Marriage Foundation to support married couples. It urges couples to "recycle rubbish, not your partner" and to "mend it, not end it". He said the charity did not take a stance on gay marriage.

Sir Paul, 63, also warned that the government's ban of gay marriage within the Church of England will "not end there", adding: "People, including vicars, and same-sex people, are unlikely to accept the government ban on marrying gays as the solution."

The government intends to introduce gay marriage, but says that religious organisations will not be forced into it. In announcing its proposals, the government said that the Church of England and the Church in Wales will be banned in law from offering same-sex marriages, but that other religious organisations would be able to "opt in" to holding gay marriage ceremonies.

'Undemocratic' plans

On Christmas Day, the Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols called the government's plans for gay marriage a "shambles".

"There was no announcement in any party manifesto, no Green Paper, no statement in the Queen's speech. And yet here we are on the verge of primary legislation," he told the BBC.

"From a democratic point of view, it's a shambles. George Orwell would be proud of that manoeuvre. I think the process is shambolic."

The religious leader claimed that during a "period of listening", those who responded were "seven to one against same-sex marriage".

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