Earlier this month some register offices began removing all references to marriage following the introduction of civil partnerships for same sex couples. Victoria Tickle looks at whether marriage has now become a dirty word...
The snapshot of a beaming Sir Elton John and David Furnish on the steps of Windsor Guildhall became an instant endorsement of civil partnerships.
Hundreds of supporters lined the cobbled streets to congratulate the happy couple of 12 years on their public display of commitment.
Gay organisations across the world hoped this celebrity union would raise the profile of gay love and commitment after new legislation was passed allowing same sex couples to form legally binding civil partnerships.
Many viewed this development as a watershed in the struggle for gay rights; proof that justice and equality are winning the fight against prejudice and discrimination.
However, whilst the law acknowledges gay civil partnership as equal to heterosexual marriage, language is struggling to catch up.
In the light of new legislation the word 'marriage' is rapidly being deleted from register offices all over the country.
Gay couples can become 'partners' at non-religious 'ceremonies' but are not permitted the use of the word marriage.
The word marriage seems to have fallen victim to the modern mania for political correctness - but what does marriage really mean?
In the past it signified the socially and religiously sanctified legal union of man and woman. Marriage encouraged the procreation of children and provided society with a paragon of stability and decency.
It was also an exchange of property. For many centuries it was a socially accepted reality that many marriages were motivated by the desire for social and financial gain.
For women, the acquisition of security and position was tempered by the implicit subjugation of becoming the legal property of their husbands. But after years of struggling for equal rights, women finally removed the proprietorial aspect of marriage, forcing it to signify a more modern, balanced union.
The myth of the male bread-winner and female house-keeper has long been dispelled by the acceptance of house-husbands and career women.
The legal and social implications of marriage have thus evolved with the changing times.
However, the role of romance in marriage should also not be overlooked. Marriage is a public celebration of love and commitment among family and friends.
Yet with a divorce rate of roughly 40 per cent in the UK and adultery seemingly on the increase, the importance of love and fidelity seems to be diminishing.
Christianity tells us that marriage is about bringing glory to God through the sinless procreation of children but whilst 70 per cent of the UK population claim to be Christian, it is uncertain how many actively follow the word of the Bible today.
It is personal interpretation which defines marriage to each of us.
So should we banish the word from our vocabulary altogether as an obsolete term in our multi-cultural, multi-faith, multi-sexuality country or perhaps attempt to preserve it for the heterosexual unions which many insist is the 'natural' use of the word.
Either way it is unlikely that every one of the UK's population will ever be persuaded to embrace civil partnerships into their own definition of marriage.