Alice Arnold: The lack of equal marriage is horrible and I can speak out about it now

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Former Radio 4 newsreader Alice Arnold has said that she didn’t like that she had “suddenly” realised that gay people were not thought of or treated equally, and that she would be a more active spokesperson for equal marriage.

The civil partner of television presenter Clare Balding, who said earlier this month that she was determined to turn her civil partnership into a marriage, said that having left her job of 20 years at the BBC, she now had the freedom to “sound off” about such issues.

The 50-year-old had previously said that “hurtful comments” had made her more determined to legalise marriage equality and get married, and has now said that debates around equal marriage in the House of Commons had generated “very unkind thoughts and expressions”.

During an interview on Gaydio, one of the presenters said how they got “really, really angry” when listening to Parliamentary debates over equal marriage.

Ms Arnold replied: “It brings out some horrible stuff doesn’t it and it brings out some very unkind thoughts and expressions, I think.

“That is quite disconcerting when an argument comes up about it and you are suddenly realise that people do not treat you equally and don’t think of you equally and it is hurtful.”

The former presenter said she would now become a more outspoken face for the “marriage equality” campaign, and that she had been unable to speak out much in the past because of her position at the BBC.

She said in the Telegraph interview: “I wasn’t allowed to give my opinion on equal marriage when I was reading the news.

“If you are reading the news you are absolutely bound not to have an opinion inside or outside the BBC on any of those topics so I was not allowed to talk about it.

“Of course I had an opinion, so it releases me now to be able to speak about it now.”

Since leaving BBC Radio 4 after 20 years, she has also changed her Twitter bio, which now reads: “Ex-radio 4 newsreader. Can say what I like now!”.

Speaking of her civil partner, Clare Balding, she said she was a “very good example” of those who didn’t fit the mould in a world which “prizes looks and youth so highly”, but that she got there by working hard and being talented.

On their relationship she said if they are able to get married, they would thrown a party for their family in friends, as Ms Balding, 41, “absolutely loves it”.

“We have always said that we are civil partners not that we are married because we are not married because we are not allowed to be married,” she said.

“And that is a mouthful. And to be honest … it wasn’t the top of our agenda of something to fight about.

“But when the issue came up there was so much homophobic stuff that came out about that we considered it more important than we had before, that we had absolute equality.”

She added: “It is that thing that the press put ‘Clare Balding and Alice Arnold are married’ and we don’t want it to be in inverted commas, we just wanted to be able to say that we are married.

“‘Civilly partnered’ is a terrible thing. So there isn’t an expression for it. It is awful.

“We are in a civil partnership, which to us is a legally binding agreement that we are married and together for life. But if we could be married, we would be.”

Same-sex couples in England and Wales are set to be allowed to marry, under plans announced by Culture Secretary Maria Miller in the House of Commons in December. The bill should be unveiled at the end of this month.

Mrs Miller told the House of Commons that she was putting in place a “quadruple lock” of measures to guarantee religious organisations would not have to marry gay couples against their wishes, including a ban on the Church of England, and Church in Wales performing same-sex weddings.

Speaking in favour of equal marriage, on which he has said he would like Tory MPs to have a free vote, David Cameron said he did not want gay couples to be excluded from a “great institution”.

Earlier this month, more than a thousand Catholic priests signed a letter saying that if equal marriage is legalised it could threaten religious freedom in a way last seen during “centuries of persecution” of Catholics in Britain.

MPs will debate and vote on the government’s equal marriage plans for England and Wales before next month’s Valentine’s Day.