Telegraph columnist Cristina Odone: ‘Putin has made it impossible for me to be against gay marriage’

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The former editor of The Catholic Herald, Cristina Odone, who previously described religious gay weddings as a “pantomime”, says she is no longer against marriage equality.

Writing in her Telegraph blog, the journalist said: “Vladimir Putin has succeeded where Peter Tatchell failed. I loathe the Russian president and admire the gay rights campaigner, but it is Putin that has made me rethink my view of gay marriage.

“I have written before about my fear that legalising gay marriage would affect the special status of marriage as a sacred institution. I have argued that once gay people could demand to be married, believers who refused to open their churches or even church halls to the ceremony would be punished.

“But Putin’s homophobic measures have changed my mind. If I oppose gay marriage I may be seen as condoning his anti-gay campaign. I couldn’t live with that.”

Odone added: “Some might argue that Putin’s homophobia is a bit rich, coming from a man whose camp poses could fill an issue of ‘Boyz’ magazine.

“Who can forget the Russian leader in Rambo posture, chest waxed and biceps aglow?

“But Putin cannot relax with his buddies any more. His popularity, once huge, has been dented: Russians are no longer prepared to overlook corruption now that their living standards are worse since he came to power.”

Odone’s comments on equal marriage are a marked departure.

In February 2011, she said allowing same-sex couples to marry in churches “would upset large numbers of believers”.

She wrote in her Telegraph blog: “Yes, the gay, like the divorcee, can shop around for a liberal priest or imam to perform a religious ceremony.

“They will no doubt find some churches available for the purpose, an organist willing to play Mendelssohn’s wedding march and a parishioner to arrange the most exquisite bouquets.

“But as the couple go through the motions, repeating those familiar vows and exchanging rings, everyone will be conscious that this is a facsimile of the real thing, a pantomime ceremony for the thrill of re-enacting a romantic tradition.

“For the real thing, you have to be the real thing: for a real church wedding or a real synagogue or mosque wedding, you have to be a good practising Catholic, Jew or Muslim.”

In July last year, Odone criticised Education Secretary Michael Gove for stating that it’s wrong to use the word “gay” as an insult and suggested it would be like censoring the word “chav”.