London, Feb. 6: Old fashioned Indian immigrants who still think marriage is the kind of romantic bonding that
takes place between, say, Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan had a rude shock yesterday when the Commons, led by prime minister David Cameron, voted overwhelmingly to legalise same sex marriage.
By 400 votes to 175, MPs voted to give man-man or woman-woman marriages legally the same status as a heterosexual man-woman wedding.
This means invitation cards addressed to "Mrs and Mrs" can also be sent to "Mr and Mr" or "Miss and Miss" or "Mrs and Mrs" or "Ms and Ms" or "Mrs and Ms".
The Conservative party tore itself in half, with 136 voting against same sex marriage and 127 for the Bill which was passed only because of Labour and Lib Dem support. 40 Tories took advantage of a "free vote" to abstain.
Last night, the reforming prime minister went on Twitter to say: "Strong views exist on both sides but I believe MPs voting for gay people being able to marry too, is a step forward for our country."
Britain has certainly come a long way since homosexuality between consenting adults was decriminalised in 1967 ' the age of consent has dropped from 21 then to 16 now. But the gay lobby was not satisfied with "civil partnerships" but wanted "same sex marriage" to be made legal ' a momentous step.
"Frankly, I am a marriage man," Cameron insisted today. "I am a great supporter of marriage ' I want to promote marriage, defend marriage, encourage marriage. The great thing about last night's vote is that two gay people who love each other will now be able to get married, and I think that is an important advance."
He added: "I think we should be promoting marriage, rather than looking at any other way of weakening it."
There was no shortage of passionate opponents, though, in last night's Commons debate. Former defence minister Sir Gerald Howarth said that the government had no mandate for such a "massive social and cultural change", which was not mentioned in the Conservative manifesto for the 2010 election.
Tory John Glen (Salisbury) questioned the politics of the move: "By a factor of a least 30 to one my constituents have expressed their opposition to this."
Former minister Edward Leigh said the plans were an affront to many traditional Conservatives. "We should be in the business of protecting cherished institutions and our cultural heritage otherwise what, I ask, is a Conservative Party for? Indeed we are alienating people who have voted for us for all their lives, leaving them with no one to vote for."
If all this was not unsettling enough for traditionalists, then the institution of conventional marriage suffered another setback with that between a senior politician, Chris Huhne, and his wife of 26 years, Vicky Pryce, coming apart publicly in spectacular fashion. Observers, shell shocked by turn of events in the Commons, likened the Huhne-Pryce breakup to watching a terrible car crash in slow motion.
Anyone who assumed that a marriage invariably brings happiness to husband and wife will rapidly amend their views after the alacrity with which Pryce, a senior government economist, plotted the downfall of her husband. This was after Huhne, an ambitious Lib Dem who was the energy secretary in the coalition government, was foolish enough to dump his wife for his press officer, Carina Trimingham.
The trouble began 10 years ago when cameras picked up Huhne speeding in his car but instead of owning up, he persuaded/bullied/forced (depending on which version is believed) his wife to say she was driving and accept the penalty points, thereby saving her husband a possible driving ban and political embarrassment.
But two years ago, Huhne told his wife their marriage was at an end to pre-empt a News of the World story that he was having an affair with his press officer, Carina Trimingham.
Like the proverbial woman scorned Pryce went on the warpath, briefed The Sunday Times and other papers that it was her husband who had been at the wheels. She admitted she desperately wanted to destroy his political career ' which she has succeeded in doing. But Pryce is now in court on perjury charges.
Huhne, having insisted for 10 years he was not the driver, has suddenly changed his plea to guilty and is awaiting sentence ' almost certainly a stretch in jail.
Pryce has taunted her ex-husband for having gone off with a "man" ' an unflattering reference to Trimingham's looks and alleged bisexuality.
But the most painful aspect of the whole affair have been the text messages exchanged between Huhne and his teenage son, Peter, who has sided with his mother.
The following are sample SMS exchanges between Chris Huhne and his son Peter Huhne, 18.
PH: "We all know that you were driving and you put pressure on Mum. Accept it or face the consequences. You've told me that was the case. Or will this be another lie?"
CH: "I have no intention of sending Mum to Holloway Prison for three months, Dad."
PH: "Are you going to accept your responsibility or do I have to contact the police and tell them what you told me?"
From 21 June 2011
PH: "I don't want to speak to you, you disgust me."
From 28 June 2011
CH: "Peter, just to say, I'm thinking of you and I love you very much. It would be great to talk to you, Dad."
PH: "F..k off."
22 July 2011
PH: "So nice to see our entire relationship reduced to lies and pleasantries in that letter. Do you take me for an idiot? The fact you said your parents were happier as a result of their divorce was disgusting……when you were having affairs makes me sick. You are the most ghastly man I have ever known. Does it give you pleasure that you have lost most of your friends?"
30 July 2011
CH: "I understand that I have really offended you but I hope that the passage of time will provide some perspective … I love you and I will be there to support you if you ever need it."
PH: "You are right - the perspective involves me getting angrier with every day that goes by. You just don't get it."
25 December 2011
CH: "Happy Christmas. Love you, Dad."
PH: "Well I hate you, so fuck off."
21 May 2012
CH: "I do hope your exams are going okay, despite everything over the last few weeks. Thinking of you, love you, Dad. PS It's grandad's birthday today."
PH: "Don't text me you fat piece of shit."