The Honourable David Furnish? Gay Partners of Knights and Peers May Be Given Courtesy Titles in Latest Equality Drive

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Byline: Simon Walters POLITICAL EDITOR

THE male partners of peers and knights who take part in gay marriages may be given courtesy titles to put them on a par with wives of titled men.

It could lead to Sir Elton John's partner David Furnish being known as 'Sir David' or possibly 'the Honourable David Furnish'.

It would, of course, depend on whether the couple decide to convert their civil partnership into a full civil marriage, as allowed under new Government plans.

The prospect of courtesy titles for same-sex partners arises from the Coalition's controversial proposal to give gay and lesbian couples the right to marry.

In a consultation document published last week, Home Secretary Theresa May and Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone declared: 'If commitment and marriage is a good thing, we should not restrict civil marriage only to opposite-sex couples.'

Buried in the small print were a number of thorny issues, including courtesy titles. The document stated: 'Married couples and civil partners are entitled to similar rights and responsibilities but there are some differences around eligibility for some pension rights and laws around adultery and non-consummation and courtesy titles.'

At present, if 'Fred Bloggs' is given a peerage and becomes 'Lord Bloggs', his wife 'Freda' becomes 'Lady Bloggs'. Likewise, the wife of a knight of the realm, 'Sir Fred Bloggs', becomes 'Lady Bloggs'.

However, this privilege is not granted to the partners of homosexual peers and knights in civil partnerships.

To ensure full equality, the Government will either have to grant courtesy titles to the partners of married gay peers and knights - or remove them from the wives of their heterosexual counterparts. That could cause considerable anger: many male peers and knights say the main reason they accepted the honour was to enable their wives to call themselves a 'Lady'.

To add to the complications, male spouses of female peers and dames are already discriminated against. They are not granted courtesy titles, and remain plain 'Mr'.

For example, when Princess Anne married Tim Laurence, he remained Mr Laurence. …