Stepping out onto a balcony on London's Southbank to take a break from welcoming visitors to the Gay Wedding Show with glasses of Lambrini, Gino Meriano gestured at St Paul’s Cathedral on the opposite side of the Thames.
“This has nothing to do with them,” he said of the church’s battle against gay marriage. “This is huge, this is it, this is the next big step. The Government will pass it; it’s going to happen.”
Mingling among stallholders offering traditional wedding services (jewellery, catering, photography) alongside the less conventional (Lucinda’s Lovelies, a cabaret show for stag and hen parties) Mr Meriano’s confidence that gay marriage will be legalised was widespread at the show held above The Swan At The Globe bar today.
But there was disappointment and anger at the church’s attitude.
“It’s absolutely appalling that such archaic organisations hold sway over people’s lives,” said Matt Turrell, 37, founder of Boy Oh Boy photography.
“It’s horrendously judgemental and it’s pretty evil actually – we’re equal citizens and we’re not treated as such, and these organisations are stirring up hatred against people who play a big role in our society.”
Looking at rings with her partner Shelley Webster in preparation for their ceremony in Camden Lock next year, Evelyn Len, 29, herself a Christian, said she felt the way the debate was being conducted gave her religion a bad name.
“I’m an Anglo-Catholic, but what we do isn’t about them, it’s about us,” she said. “I’ve made my peace with God, I’ve come to terms with my sexuality, and I don’t believe I’m going to hell.
“If I could get married in a church I would do. The closest that we’re able to come to that is to get a bishop to bless our partnership.”
Natasha Marshall and Debbie Cross, six months from their ceremony, said they would choose a civil partnership over a wedding if given the choice – but believed it was important gay people should at least be offered that choice.
Despite the anti-church sentiment, Mr Meriano, 49, who founded the event in 2004, said the gay community should take care to lobby in a “professional and respectful manner” in the face of religious anger, which he said was provoking a “mass explosion”.