“Let me not to the marriage of true minds/ Admit impediments,” declared the bard of Stratford in his 116th sonnet. And at the Globe theatre in central London on Sunday – even as Catholics were being urged from thousands of pulpits across the country to oppose gay marriage – there was no shortage of same-sex couples ready to heed his encouragement.
At the Designer Civil Partnership show at Shakespeare’s erstwhile theatre, excited couples discussed the colour scheme of invitations, whether wedding “favours” were a necessary part of the big day – and the decision of the Catholic church to wage war against government plans for gay marriage.
“I think it’s disgusting. We are not second-class citizens and the idea that this archaic institution should dictate how we live our lives is appalling,” said Matt Turrell, 37, a photographer specialising in civil partnerships. “At the end of the day, the union of two people should be about love. Why should we be denied the right to express that publicly?”
On Sunday a letter from two senior Catholic archbishops was read in 2,500 parish churches during mass, arguing that a change to the law would reduce the significance of marriage…
At heart and root, the greater fear is the accelerating collapse of social and political power of the religious establishment.
With a string quartet playing in the entrance hall, intense discussions on whether ushers should wear matching cufflinks, and stalls displaying everything from chocolate macaroons to crystal-encrusted table centre pieces, this was a wedding fair much like any other.
But gay couples are still made to feel excluded because they cannot marry in the same way as heterosexual couples, according to Chris Ford, 30, and his fiance Andrew Ogilvie, 32. The couple, both nurses, were told they could have no religious element to their service and described it as the first barrier they had faced as gay men.
“I was gobsmacked,” said Ogilvie. “Automatically you feel second class, that your union is not valued in the same way. It’s not like we are all going to be marching into Catholic churches in bridal dresses, but you just want to have the option. Civil partnerships are good, but they are not perfect…”
Standing in the sunshine overlooking the Thames from a balcony at the Globe, Natasha Marshall, 31, and Debbie Cross, 38, tuck into the bubbles, chatting about the wedding rings they have just chosen for their civil partnership in September. The pair, who have been together for 13 years, would have liked the option of a civil wedding, but seem unconcerned about the fact that they will not yet be able to have a religious ceremony. “Church weddings are boring anyway,” said Cross. “We’re going to have a lot more fun than that.”
The headline suggests a question easy enough to answer with a smile. Which would you rather attend? A gay wedding fair or one more ceremony of 14th Century stink and sermon brimming with fear and hatred, telling us all which orders we are required to obey without question?
Civil rights, evenhanded for all is easy as pie. Just not for those who believe they are above the civil.