Editor-At-Large: A wedding day should be a gay day


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The Independent Online

Marriage is pretty unattractive to many straight people. We don't get tax breaks, and our political leaders (apart from David Cameron) are too wet to stick up for it.

Fewer people get married every year. The one group that seems dead keen on marriage – gay people – face implacable opposition from right-wing Tories in the Commons and bishops in the House of Lords. Now, the Archbishop of York, a serious contender for the thankless task of leading the Church of England, has written an academic thesis attacking gay marriage.

Dr John Sentamu says that redefining marriage "would mean diminishing the meaning of marriage for most people, with very little if anything gained for homosexual people".

If civil partnerships are seen as "second class", he argues that social attitudes won't be altered by changing the law to allow same-sex couples to marry. Campaigners were concerned that the Queen's Speech contained no mention of gay marriage, in spite of Mr Cameron's support. Downing Street quickly responded – same-sex marriage will be part of a bill that clarifies the rights of unmarried couples, to be introduced before the next election.

A High Court judge is so concerned about the parlous state of marriage, he's set up a charitable foundation to promote it. Last week, I had an interesting conversation with two highly intelligent friends who happen to be homosexual. They're fed up with all the talk of "gay marriage" – we don't bang on about "physically challenged marriage" or "Irish marriage" or "white people marriage" do we?

Why can't marriage reflect the morality of the age? It must be a simple legal partnership between two people – their sex is totally irrelevant, and so is their religion. Dr Sentamu is entitled to his opinion, but the Church of England is a small player on the sidelines and his problem is how to keep together a church that is on the verge of disintegration.

In northern Nigeria last week, Muslim leaders began a series of mass weddings for 1,000 widows and divorcees. In their society, marriages last an average of two years, because a man can simply say to his wife "I divorce you" three times. There is social stigma attached to being single, so mass weddings are an attempt to solve the problem. Without being judgemental about Islamic law – sharia – who is to say that mass weddings are any less valid than a Church of England service with a vicar and a load of clapped-out hymns?

Mr Cameron calls parents "nation builders", and vouchers for parenting classes and easily accessible information about child rearing are good ideas. But he has to make marriage attractive to provide a stable environment for children to flourish. At the moment, cohabiting couples have no rights should they separate. Marriage solves all these problems.

Getting married should involve the same counselling as faiths provide before they allow couples to tie the knot. There have to be tax breaks, and compulsory counselling before divorce. Marriage must be available to all.

Nuclear dump? No thank you

I made a short film for the BBC's One Show recently, complaining about the wind farm on beautiful Romney Marsh, which ruins the view of Rye, one of the most beautiful towns in south-east England. The land the wind farm occupies is owned by the Crown – so much for Prince Charles's views about protecting our precious environment. Now, this precious wetland faces another threat – a proposal to bury nuclear waste underground.

Local residents have been sent a form seeking their views, and the Conservative-dominated council thinks that the scheme might replace the thousand jobs lost when Dungeness power station is decommissioned. Charles Hendry, the Energy Minister, has already expressed support, waffling about the "retention of nuclear-industry skills in the area". What skills are required to build a dump?

Every wind turbine is secured by a huge pad of concrete hidden in the ground – so any wildlife on Romney Marsh has already had its natural habitat severely disrupted. This scheme must surely be dumped, and pronto.

Why Hilton's Big Society needs work

Steve Hilton, Mr Cameron's "blue sky thinker" and the man behind the Big Society initiative (which most of us still don't understand) leaves Downing Street for a year teaching at Stanford University in the United States, where his wife has a big job at Google.

Mr Hilton and the civil service don't see eye to eye – he thought the service should be reduced by 90 per cent, and officials were appalled he turned up to a high-level meeting wearing shorts, carrying a plastic bag of oranges which he peeled "inexpertly", dropping juice over his crotch. I wonder if Mr Hilton has seen Detroit, at the National Theatre (reviewed on page 65), a hard-hitting play about the decline of a suburban community hard-hit by the recession. Set in Detroit, it could easily apply to many places in the North-east.

Detroit is the story of a married couple – he has accepted redundancy and is building a website to sell his services as a financial adviser. She has a dreary job as a legal adviser and is knocking back the booze.

A couple of ex-junkies (Clare Dunne gives an intense performance as the frenetic Sharon) move into the house next door, and the inevitable catastrophe is predictable. This play loses its impetus, and I'm not completely sure why the National imported it from Chicago, but the message about the death of the suburban dream is relevant today. Unless people have real work, the Big Society will never get off the ground.

Sex tips for PMs: hold the sauce

The Prime Minister lets it be known than one night a week he and his missus have a "date night", where they do something together – even if it's just having supper at home and watching a movie. Please!

I've been through four marriages and three long-term relationships so I know a bit about keeping "the flame" burning. Having a rich stodgy meal is just about the last thing that makes me want to get my kit off. Sex first and eat later is my advice.

Nevertheless, Dave and Sam Cam were pictured arriving at the Oslo Court restaurant in swanky St John's Wood last week – a place so retro that when I last ate there with husband number two, circa 1978, it seemed like something from the 1950s.

Starters include a grilled grapefruit! Curtains are ruched, the linen is starched and the clientele is solidly bourgeois, like the food. After a veal chop with a lemon and rosemary sauce, you need a nice lie down with an episode of Porridge, not a re-enactment of Last Tango.

Musical... film... play – Gatz is back

Reading The Great Gatsby as a teenager in the 1960s I immediately connected with the mysterious loner in his "pink rag" of a suit. I'd look for Gatsby at parties and clubs but no one ever lived up to F Scott Fitzgerald's haunting portrait of an outsider. The film with Mia Farrow and Robert Redford was ultra naff, but now Gatsby is being rediscovered, and hopefully the results will be more true to the book.

The Great Gatsby the musical has just finished a sell-out at Wilton's Music Hall – where the audience wore period dress and the atmosphere was that of a house party – Michael Malarkey was a gorgeous Gatsby, although Daisy, his dream girl, grated. Will it transfer to the West End?

Baz Luhrmann has just finished filming Gatsby in Australia, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan as the golden couple, and next month Gatz arrives in London – an eight-hour drama based on a reading of the book. Get your dancing shoes on!