The Gay Humanist

Autumn 1987

Gay Love Affirmed on TV

by George Broadhead

The Gay Humanist Group was asked to provide an officiator and text for a secular gay wedding ceremony screened recently by Channel 4. In the event, although the group had someone available, an officiator was not required, but the text was Red Starred via British Rail from National Office in Kenilworth to London in time for the programme.

The ceremony was transmitted live by Network 7, a magazine programme aimed at younger people which deals with topics from pop to drugs and animal rights to the cinema.

A gay couple – go-go dancer Terry Wallace and Sean Ross-Powell, a manager at London’s Hippodrome nightclub – were interviewed and said they wanted a ceremony in which they could express their love and commitment to each other.

As a climax to the programme, the humanist (non-religious) ceremony the couple had opted for was conducted live in the studio and featured an exchange of rings and a close-up kiss.

The Gay Humanist Group was credited with providing the text and offering this kind of non-religious ceremony as a service to the lesbian and gay community.

The screening produced the predictable reaction from the gutter press, including The Sun and The Daily Mail with rantings from Tory MP Anthony Beaumont-Dark and Mrs Mary Whitehouse who spoke about the need to bolster the traditional family relationship and described the ceremony as “utterly irresponsible” in the light of AIDS.

A press release issued by GHG afterwards rejected the complaint and stated: “If Mrs Whitehouse had considered the matter rationally – in a humanist way – instead of being guided by her Christian beliefs, she might have realised that a ceremony in which a gay couple affirm their love and commitment to one another is something to be applauded in view of the AIDS situation when monogamous relationships are desirable, if not always attainable.”

Following the publicity provided by the programme, the Hippodrome arranged a mass gay wedding in which 22 couples took part, again making use of the GHG text to conduct what Gay Times reporter Bill Short described as a “brief but touching non-religious ceremony”. One of the couples had flown in from the US especially for the occasion.

The whole idea of gay weddings has caused a bit of controversy and the TV one came in for criticism from our own columnist Jonathan Sanders among others. In his recent Gay Times TV review, he commented: “I don’t see why gay couples should want to imitate the silliest of heterosexual rituals”, and this view has been echoed in the letters page of Capital Gay.

However, an important precept of humanism is freedom of choice and I feel that those lesbian or gay couples who get pleasure and satisfaction out of making this sort of public commitment, and – like many people (homosexual or heterosexual, unbelievers or religious) – feel a need for ceremony to mark special occasions, should continue to do their own thing and not be put off by hostile reactions of this sort.

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