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Why I am going to marry Clare Balding

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Why I am going to marry Clare Balding

Post  Panda on Wed 6 Feb - 9:28

Why I am going to marry Clare Balding

Alice Arnold, Clare Balding's partner, on what the equal marriage bill means
for her and the broadcaster as they prepare to convert their civil partnership.

Clare Balding with her partner
Alice Arnold Photo: Linda

By Alice Arnold

6:36AM GMT 06 Feb 2013

If you have done a Civil Partnership as Clare Balding and I have, then what
does yesterday’s victory mean? Well, we can ‘convert’ our partnership into
‘Marriage’. From using an expression that sounds like we have been paired up
under an umbrella of politeness we can now use a phrase that is recognised by

Most of the people we know refer to us as ‘married’, they talk about having
attended our ‘wedding’. We don’t though. We never have. I suspect other people
use the term ‘married’ because the expression ‘Civilly Partnered’ sounds so
ridiculous.But I suspect some use it (and they are nearly all straight) because
that is simply what they feel we should be. Neither of us has made any secret of
the fact that we would get married if the law allowed, every newspaper has
reported it.

We will do it because we don’t want our relationship to exist in inverted
commas. That one word MARRIED is crucial because it defines our relationship.
The way we see ourselves and the way we wish others to see us.

I don’t claim to speak for anyone other than myself about what civil
partnership or marriage means to them. I only know what is personal to us...but
attitudes change laws and laws change attitudes. Clause 28 introduced by Mrs
Thatcher, produced an atmosphere of fear and misunderstanding. No one was ever
prosecuted but teachers were afraid to mention homosexuality lest they might be.

A generation grew up without support in their schools or clubs. For those
that felt they may be gay there was a culture of pervading shame. How could you
complain about homophobic bullying if the issue was pushed under the carpet?
Young people took their own lives as a result and we all have to live with that.

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Yesterday’s victory is important. Children are not born with prejudice, it is
society that nurtures it. Young people now can grow up to learn that a loving
relationship between a same sex couple can be recognised in exactly the same
way, it is not something ‘other’.

Listening to the debate yesterday most of the objections were based on
religious grounds. The argument that God made Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve,
was rolled out endlessly. That marriage is between a man and a woman and that
there should be the possibility for the procreation of children.

The church does not own the institution of marriage. It is a civil right. Two
thirds of couples do not get married in a church and if marriage is based on the
procreation of children then why was it important to Prince Charles and Camilla,
or indeed anybody over childbearing age. It was important, I imagine, because
marriage is an expression of love and commitment.

The other argument against the bill is that it will ‘undermine’ marriage...I
promise you I have tried to understand but no one can give me a single answer as
to how this undermining will happen. Gay people do not seek to devalue marriage
we seek to celebrate it. We want to play our role in society, we want to feel
accepted and included. We want to contribute and most of all we want to be

The Catholic Church has been allowed to refuse to marry divorced people. This
has never been challenged. Churches are protected in this legistlation in the
same way. By the same token I can’t imagine any Christian gay couple wishing to
force an unwelcoming church to marry them. I’m sure they would rather choose a
church that would willingly bless their union.

Marriage, like most constructs, needs to be allowed to develop and evolve.
Originally rape within marriage was accepted. Wives were seen as the possession
of their husbands. These ideas are unpalatable to us now. I believe we will look
back on last night as a defining moment when we broke though a wall of
inequality and prejudice. David Cameron will not be vilified for this..he will
be celebrated.

So don’t fear it. Embrace it. If I win the lottery you do not become poorer.
In an article on the Conservative Home website J P Floru says: “In every country
which introduced gay marriage it stopped being an issue the day after.”

This is the day after.

Best known as a Radio 4 announcer and newsreader Alice originally trained
and worked as an actress. Her degree was in politics and she was a magistrate
throughout her thirties. She entered into a Civil Partnership With Clare Balding
in 2006. They live in London with their dog Archie and elderly cat Itty. Alice
left the BBC in December 2012.
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