While the case for gay marriage is of course made on principles of equality, there are also some important pragmatic reasons for support that have not featured much so far.
What we may call "traditional marriage" developed in a time when life expectancy was short and maternal death in childbirth common, so it is not surprising that the bearing and rearing of children should have been regarded as its main concern.
We are now living in a time of historically unprecedented ageing, and the marital duties of care and support in later life are increasingly economically important. The burden of care for physical and mental disability in old age is overwhelmingly borne by spouses and families, and as a society we should be doing everything we can to encourage and support this labour of love.
We are all equal in the face of disability and dementia, and this should be acknowledged in the changing definition of what marriage is for.
Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry for the Elderly
University of Leicester
Since Adam and Eve, marriage has been understood as a union between a man and a woman.
The couple commit to spending their lives together in the knowledge that they complement each other psychologically, physically and spiritually; that they can, together, conceive children; and that the possibility of these children developing and realising their full potential will be enhanced by the joint nurturing afforded by a man and a woman. For our parliament to abandon this ancient wisdom is bizarre.
The passing of the same-sex marriage bill will help change attitudes, promote tolerance, and save lives.
People whose nature pits them against convention are doomed to struggle and suffer, usually at the cost of their self-esteem. By expanding the scope of acceptance, society becomes less bothered by differentness and provides a better quality of life for its members. The importance of having equality made legally binding is to nullify the cruelty of prejudice and to render insignificant the over-reported expostulations of bigots and religious idealists.
While the human conditions of age, gender, race and sexual orientation should never be an issue in a civilised society, politics will always be, and those MPs who voted against equality and a better quality of life for their constituents are not at the moment fit to represent others. One day they and their unkind attitudes will seem as marginalised as once were the people whom they seek to discriminate against.
As we delight in the long-overdue bill that will provide equality for gay couples in Britain, we must note the current miserable state of the Conservative Party. Sadly, David Cameron failed to persuade more than half of his MPs to support the Bill, overwhelmingly demonstrating that they are out of touch with today's Britain and the 21st century.
The Bill will continue to make its passage through Parliament at a high cost to the Tories. The party's 136 MPs who opposed the bill have not only let down their electorate, but they expose some deep cracks within the Conservatives.
Mawkish burial plans for a dreadful king
Well done to the team of archaeologists which has managed to bring to the surface the remains of King Richard III. But there is an unwelcome whiff of mawkishness about what happens next.
Some talk of Richard of York as if he is a poor, misunderstood, almost saintly character. Well, let's get a few facts straight. While he cannot (yet) be convicted of the murder of the Princes in the Tower, he was certainly responsible for their welfare, a responsibility which he managed to shuffle off very easily.
It was Richard who prevented young Edward V from reaching his coronation, and Richard who conspired to have Edward and his brother declared illegitimate, so that A N Other could secure the throne. Now, who could that be? Ah, yes, step forward, Richard of York.
Any idea that a member of the Royal Family should attend a "State Funeral" for this dreadful man should be scotched forthwith.
As someone who has studied archaeology and medieval history, I remain deeply suspicious on this so-called discovery of Richard III's body. We actually know very little about Richard and we don't even know for certain if he had scoliosis of the spine. Even the DNA is not conclusive.
Before all this talk of burial in Leicester or York by people like the Richard III Society, who have funded this project, the sure-fire way of proving to almost 100 per cent accuracy that this is the skeleton of Richard III would be to test the DNA against that of his brother, Clarence, who is lying and waiting for them in Tewkesbury Abbey.
Until then I remain unconvinced they have found the body of Richard III.
Michael W Cook
Remember who exposed Huhne
The prison sentence looming for Chris Huhne is a personal tragedy for a hugely ambitious politician and a major disaster for the Liberal Democrat party.
But the public at large would do well to take into account the role that national newspapers played in uncovering the truth about Huhne's willingness to pervert the course of justice by getting another party to take the rap for his speeding offence a decade ago.
It was also depressing to read the tsunami of ill-informed Twittersphere venom aimed at the media for publishing or broadcasting the texts between Chris Huhne and his estranged teenage son. Yes, they were painful and personal, but as the judge made clear they were also crucial to the case and reportable in the vital tradition of open justice.
St Albans, Hertfordshire
It is interesting to note the outrage over Chris Huhne's lies – and compare it with the warmth of the reception for the TV game show, Would I Lie to You? Are lies the stuff of entertainment or evidence of the moral decline of the nation?
Musicians' right to remain silent
Dennis Leachman (letter, 4 February) insults classical musicians by likening them to performing seals when they do not conform with his notions of how they should communicate with their audiences. This despite protestations from distinguished musicians that their endeavour is to communicate through the excellence of their music-making.
Musicians differ in temperament and we should respect this: verbal contact with an audience suits some better than others, and is more appropriate in chamber music and recitals performed in smaller rooms (where this in fact does happen) than at large-scale orchestral concerts in grand halls.
There is a wide range in levels of formality and social interaction. Let us allow musicians the dignity of conducting themselves as they see fit and not in enforced conformity with preconceptions about social change.
Sympathetic though I am to the views expressed by Nick Chadwick (letter, 6 February), I fear that Max Hole and others are making a very important point, and that we're missing it.
Musical artistry may be one thing, albeit for that minority that cares about such things. But the classical music industry is losing sight of the far more important objectives of marketing itself, and making enormous sums of money; albeit mostly for such corporations as are represented by Mr Hole.
Who could prefer Test cricket when offered the thrills of 20/20? It is inevitable that it will become the same with classical music, for the markets cannot be gainsaid.
Fixed term for a dull government
So, fixed-term parliaments have proved to be a ghastly mistake (Steve Richards, 31 January); who would have guessed? How did such a major change get through so easily, with so little public debate? The electorate, of course, were given no choice in the matter; after all, what do they know?
Steve Richards' analysis is useful, but confined to the effects on people within the Westminster bubble; it fails to include the effect on the country of being saddled with this lacklustre government for five years.
Perhaps in the light of the Europol findings on endemic match fixing in football, and the chilling declaration that they are the tip of the iceberg, the FA will be goaded finally into spinning off the marketing functions from the regulatory side, to enable them to concentrate on rooting out match-fixing and other scourges undermining the integrity of the "beautiful game", rather than concentrating on making money.
Professor Ian Blackshaw
International Sports Law Centre
The damaging health effects of London's new smog are even worse than mentioned in Kate Calvert's letter (1 February). Where once it was lead in petrol that harmed our children's brains, now it's the particulates found in all vehicle exhaust emissions, but especially in diesel, that are irreversibly reducing their lung capacity. Inhibited lung growth can shorten life expectancy.
Concorde on rails
David Ridge (letter, 6 February) is right on the mark in comparing HS2 to Concorde. Concorde was developed when flying was seen as luxury travel for the elite. Meanwhile, the Americans were developing the Boeing 747 as an economical mode of transport for the many. Guess which one was the commercial success.
Steeple Claydon, Buckinghamshire
In view of the forthcoming "bedroom tax", is somebody checking that no MP is living in publicly funded accommodation that is too large?
Neath, West GlamorganReuse content