Back to the 19th century!
You have to hand it to the Catholic Church. In their obsession with upholding their antiquated doctrines, they are willing to risk becoming even more irrelevant in this modern age. Their opposition to equal rights for homosexuals is long-standing and well known. What is truly surprising are recent developments in the US where they have chosen to go to the mat in vociferously opposing contraceptive services to women, a losing battle if there ever was one.
The Catholic hierarchy in the United Kingdom are no slouches either. The UK has civil partnerships for same sex couples that apparently give them the same legal rights as those enjoyed by married couples but does not allow them to be referred to by the word ‘marriage’. Now the government is introducing legislation that would legalize same sex marriage by 2015 and this has put Catholic clergy, backed by the pope, on the warpath, although the law exempts clergy from performing same sex marriages if they don’t want to.
So this fight has now apparently become over who has the right to use the word marriage. I personally am more concerned about the rights people have rather than the symbols and labels given to those rights. My feeling is that over time, as long as civil partnerships confer the same legal rights as marriage, the distinctions between the two terms will become increasingly blurred until no one will really care. So the current fight over the symbolic use of the word marriage is itself symbolic and however it turns out, in time there will be no distinction and one or the other term will become the default for all such relationships.