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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Programme Manager - Business Support Transformation, 1 year contract

£550 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Walthamstow...

ERP Business/ Implementation Analyst

£40000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: This is an e...

Demandware Developer

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My Client is...

Sap Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The daily catch-up: what if Hillary sticks, drowning sorrows and open sesame

John Rentoul
 

i Deputy Editor's Letter:

Independent Voices, Indy Voices Rhodri Jones
Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor