David Thomas: Gay marriage plays havoc with titles

What, exactly, would be the correct title and status of the wife of a lesbian baroness?

Share
Related Topics

The Coalition's plans for gay marriage provide a once-in-a-parliamentary-lifetime opportunity to remedy a situation that penalises a long-suppressed minority and fosters unacceptable gender inequality. I refer, of course, to the grossly unfair status of husbands of titled wives.

You see, the joining-together of two men or two women in matrimony leads to a number of tricky issues of law and etiquette. One of these relates to the partners of peers and knights. What, exactly, would be the correct status of the wife of a lesbian baroness? If Sir Elton John and Mr David Furnish were to marry, what would that make David?

At the moment, only women acquire their husband's status through marriage. If Miss Josephine Bloggs marries a king, she becomes Queen Josephine. If her husband becomes a knight, then she becomes a lady. But if Mr Joe Bloggs is joined in matrimony to a titled female, or his wife acquires an honour, he's still plain old Joe.

Thus men are clearly discriminated against in the most outrageous way: one that would never be tolerated if the situation were reversed. And women are grossly insulted, because the reason they can receive status through marriage but cannot pass it on is that wives are still essentially regarded as their spouses' chattels. The complications involved when both partners are the same sex are, therefore, quite boggling.

One obvious, egalitarian move would be to prevent titles being taken on by any spouses at all. There are, however, obvious drawbacks with this proposal. Most women would think that the whole point of marrying a prince is that one becomes a princess. And many, many wives of egomaniacal, careerist workaholics stay with their otherwise repellent husbands only because they might become a lady one day.

Far better, then, to approach the problem from the other direction and give male spouses titles too. This is a matter of particular piquancy to me because my own father is a victim of this titular discrimination.

My mum used to be a relatively normal suburban housewife. Then she discovered the Liberal Party. After years of doughty service, fighting one losing election after another, the party did what the voters never would and sent her off to Parliament as a working life peer. She became Baroness Thomas. My sisters and I are thus, bizarrely, Hons. My dad, however, is the only commoner in the entire family and frankly it has become embarrassing to watch the poor old boy doffing his cap as we go by and calling my mother "Ma'am".

It's time to end this outrage for once and for all. So it's good to think that gay marriage might not only bring equality to gay men and women, but also do just a little bit to help those long-suffering husbands of absurdly posh or overachieving wives.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Digital Communications Manager

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 6-month part-time contract (24 hours a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Broker

£12000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee Vehicle Broker is req...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Data Capture / Telesales

£12000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: the Labour leadership election hasn’t yet got to grips with why the party lost

John Rentoul
Kennedy campaign for the Lib Dems earlier this year in Bearsden  

Charles Kennedy: A brilliant man whose talents were badly needed

Baroness Williams
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific