Some ministers believe that legally obliging schools to give pupils such guidance is the only way to defuse the row over repealing Section 28 - the part of the Local Government Act 1988 which bans promotion of homosexuality in schools. Education secretary David Blunkett promised repeal would be accompanied by tough guidance forcing schools to promote marriage.
But his remarks have prompted a personal intervention from culture secretary Chris Smith, the first openly gay cabinet member. He asked Mr Blunkett whether government policy is being shifted towards 'promoting' heterosexuality. He and others are anxious that any new code sent to schools does not implicitly denigrate homosexuality or heterosexual partners who raise children outside marriage.
Stonewall, the gay rights group, said it would take a balanced approach to any new proposals. 'Schools should be free to teach that a family is an important part of life. But families come in all shapes and sizes and in the gay community people cannot marry. The variety of family life should be taught', said a spokeswoman.
'PLANS FOR FIFTY NEW PEERS TO END CLAUSE 28'
Tony Blair was plunged into a new row over 'Tony's cronies' at the weekend after secret plans to appoint up to 50 pro-gay rights peers were revealed, claimed The Mail on Sunday (p11). The new Labour peers would help force through controversial laws to lift the ban on promoting homosexuality in schools.
Leader of the lords Baroness Jay and the government chief whip in the lords, Lord Carter, have held talks on finding a way to prevent peers killing off the government's attemt to repeal Section 28. The reform was rejected by 45 votes in the lords last week. Mr Blair plans to use his massive commons majority to reverse the decision next month, even though the attempt seems doomed because peers still have powers to block it.
However, The Mail on Sunday says it has learned the government is studying whether to delay the legislation's return to the lords until after Easter to allow time to pack it with enough new Labour peers to win the vote. Labour sources say Baroness Jay and Lord Carter have urged the prime minister to speed up existing plans to appoint up to 50 new peers to give the party the same number as the Tories in the new semi-reformed house.