I used to think it was a good job I turned out gay; I never felt like I was the marrying kind. As I'm not religious and don't particularly want to enter into a civil partnership, the recent announcement by the British government that churches and other places of worship can now play host to such ceremonies is on a par with being told I can go for a walk on the moon for a couple of minutes if I feel like it. Nice idea, but not for me.
Previously, civil partnerships could be held pretty much anywhere except religious buildings, and you could say almost anything at them so long as it wasn't religious. Get the general idea? Given that the great majority of organised religions think homosexuality is a sin and that all those taking part will burn in hell or its regional variation, you'd think that this wouldn't trouble your average gay. And for the most part, I imagine it won't.
I must admit that, as a homosexual, I've struggled at times to understand religious gays. God and his earthly representatives so very clearly don't want anything to do with them, and yet back they keep running to the altar, demanding to be married within the church's hypocritical walls, or wanting to join its clergy. Religion, I know, is a very personal thing and a great comfort to some and, helpfully, its followers sometimes pretend that it's OK to be gay. "Hate the sin, not the sinner," they bleat, but the trouble is, the sinner is committing the sin. Vicars might pop round for a cup of weak tea and a bourbon when they need a hand organising the village fete, but they still think what you do after the lights go out is very, very wrong.
Marriage in a church, for me, belongs to men and women. Let them have it. I don't know why anyone really does it aside from to avoid double-barrelled name confusion when you have children. Does it really show you're committed? Doesn't the simple act of being together do that just fine? We're so eager to get the same rights as heterosexuals we even want to take ownership of all the ridiculous, hypocritical ones.
Civil partnerships, little more than a sop to quieten the rumblings of gay activists (and even then ineffective as they're still seen as discriminatory by same-sex marriage campaigners), offer all the comforts of marriage but without the special dispensation to get wed in an old gothic building, presided over by a man in a dress. Very few straight people get married in churches because they believe in, or care about, God or his 57 varieties of righteousness - they are more likely to pick a church because of how pretty it is or its proximity to whichever overpriced country house they've selected for their celestially-approved drinking competition that evening.
Godless straight people don't have to be means-tested when selecting a venue for their nuptials. Your average place of worship will let anyone plight their troth on its grounds as long as they have the cash to pay and the right combination of reproductive organs, of course. Gays, then, want a piece of this too. "I refuse to do it without a meaningless ceremony in a draughty old relic festooned with flowers, while an angelic choir boy serenades me!" they cry.
Trouble is, this is a completely voluntary act on the churches' part - Lynne Featherstone's proclamation doesn't mean that your parish church will be throwing open its doors to every gay hoping for a white wedding. Both the Church of England and its Roman Catholic counterpart have made it very clear that their aisles will remain free of happy homos skipping up them for the foreseeable future Ditto mosques and synagogues. Only the most liberal of religions (Quakers, Liberal Jews and Unitarians so far) have said they will host the ceremonies. Us gays, however, prefer a challenge, don't we?
If the church doesn't want you, don't beat down its door begging for acceptance; hold your head up and live your life without it. Starve the church of what it needs to survive - attention.