Pink Weddings

Nicola Hill looks at the estimates of the number of gay weddings and counters some of the arguments that have appeared in the press.

The UK government estimated that there will be 11,000 to 22,000 pink weddings before 2010. However, a recent survey of the gay community in the UK magazine, Gay Times, revealed that 81 per cent of readers are planning to take advantage of the new law.

Latest figures show that over 18,000 couples tied the knot in the first year.

Gay Times and Diva magazines in partnership with Out Now Consulting say that there are nearly three million gay people in the UK and up to 70 per cent of them are in a committed relationship with many intending to register for a Civil Partnership. It doesn't take a mathematical genius to know that many gay people are going to take advantage of the new law.

In defence of gay marriage

Most of the press coverage of this fantastic move forward for gay rights has been positive, however, there have been some negative comments. I have had to defend gay marriage a number of times on television, radio and in the press. Here are my thoughts on the matter.

Some religious groups argue that it undermines the sanctity of marriage. But how can more people wanting to marry undermine it? Some Christians could obviously start quoting unsavoury sections of The Bible, but I could quote certain sections back to them about loving thy neighbour, not casting the first stone etc etc.

As it is, in 2003, government statistics show that 68% of weddings were civil rather than religious. Since 1992, there have been more civil marriage ceremonies in England and Wales than religious ceremonies.

Most straight people don't want a religious wedding so why should gay people be blamed for undermining the sanctity of marriage? We live in a secular society and don't decide on any other legal rights based on religion, so why did our government give in to the religious right by not calling it a marriage?

The religious right have accused, gay men, in particular, of being promiscuous but are now kicking off when they want to show commitment and settle down with each other.

In any case, there is no religious element allowed under the law during the ceremony although they can be blessed. Registration cannot at present take place at a place of worship. Personally I think people should be allowed a religious element to their gay wedding if that's what they want.

I would also argue, how can gay people who want to commit to each other and protect each undermine marriage? Marriage isn't just about procreation, what about married people who don't have children? Should their marriage be annulled? It is about two people who love each other and want to commit to each other for the rest of their lives.

Gay weddings are just for financial gain?

Some people have said gay people are only getting married for financial gain. Personally, I think it is for romantic and practical reasons. I want to show a life-long commitment to Laura. I also want to share this moment with friends and family. At the same time, it is also about protecting each other legally and financially. Laura and I own a home together, why should we have to pay 40% inheritance tax if one of us dies?

A friend of ours lost his partner in the year before they had the legal right to hold a civil partnership ceremony. After the death, the assessors came round to their house to value the entire contents, including soft furnishings, to calculate how much tax the surviving partner should pay.

The same couple were not treated as next of kin in hospital. The death certificate pronounced that the deceased partner was single, although they had been together for over 20 years. How insulting is that?

Now this may not seem like a very romantic reason to marry and everyone hopes that it won't happen to them, but we will all die at some point. It is tough enough without having to endure tax assessors crawling round your house, unsympathetic medical staff and rigid bureaucracy.

Open to abuse?

Some people have said that the new law is open to abuse by straight people doing it for financial reasons. Somehow, I doubt people will enter into such an arrangement lightly, if they are not romantically connected, when they realise that they might have to dissolve the partnership and potentially pay alimony.

The civil partnership act doesn't go far enough

There have been objections within the gay community that the law does not go far enough and that it should be a marriage not a civil partnership. I agree that it should be called marriage. We are the only minority who is denied this right. If black people or disabled people were denied the right, there would be an outrage. It seems very mealy-mouthed to give us the same rights but not use the same words.

Civil partnership ceremony doesn't exactly trip off the tongue and there isn't an easy verb to use - we are getting civil partnershipped doesn't have quite the same ring.

As it happens most people are using words such as gay marriage, pink wedding, lesbian bride, gay wedding etc anyway.

Aping the straight world?

Some gay people say they don't want to 'ape' the straight world. We don't have to. It is just important that we have the same rights. It is up to each couple to decide if they want to go to the registry office in t-shirts and jeans with a couple of witnesses or have a hugely extravagant party. Surely that is an equal right as well.

In terms of the new industry of wedding merchandise, I don't have a problem with that. I have searched high and low in the past for suitable Valentine's card. I think it's great that shops like Asda are finally recognising our needs.

Laura and I set up gay-friendly-wedding-venues.com when we were looking for a venue and found that around 30% weren't replying to our email enquiries about holding a civil partnership ceremony. We decided it was important to know who would welcome gay people's business.

One gay person writing in The Times felt gay people would get trapped in a tradition that they have been fighting against for years. I think gay people can still be pioneers, while embracing the equal rights that civil partnerships afford. By being same sex to start with, we can rewrite the rulebook, throwing out the traditional sexist stuff about women being given away, best men giving speeches and grooms carrying brides over the threshold.

Let's do it in any way we want to and perhaps, who knows, showing that gay marriages can be fun, romantic, serious, moving and different but equal.

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