British Royal composer lashes out after island council bans gay wedding

Anthony Cuesta | January 12, 2007

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies
GLASCOW — The remote Scottish island of Orkney is weathering a media storm, after a leading British composer accused council officials of discrimination for denying him permission to hold a civil partnership ceremony.

According to the UK’s Telegraph, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, 72, Master of the Queen's Music, was planning a lavish civil partnership ceremony with his long-term companion, Colin Parkinson, 52, a builder, on the Scottish island of Orkney where they live.

They were to arrive for the event by miniature railway, on a burgundy-coloured steam train, and were hoping to exchange vows to the accompaniment of music composed by Sir Peter, reports the Telegraph.

The guest list was rumored to have included Sir Elton John and his partner, David Furnish, along with leading musicians including the clarinettist Dimitri Ashkenazy.

But their plans were put on hold after officials at Orkney Islands Council unexpectedly said the registrar was not authorized to preside over the civil partnership. Instead, they would have to travel to Kirkwall on Orkney mainland for the ceremony.

The UK’s Independent reports that matters became further confused yesterday when it was reported that Orkney officials had also cited fears of a media circus and "unsuitable music" on Sanday as reasons to move the ceremony.

According to the Telegraph, Sir Peter accused the local authority of "outright discrimination", adding: "Everybody can get married where they live except me, it seems. Ever since the law on civil partnerships was brought in, we thought that finally there was an opportunity to get married and to have a little celebration."

Gay rights groups have called for a tourist boycott.

Activist Peter Tatchell told the Independent that the publicity was damaging the image of the Orkney islands as a whole and warned that a tourist boycott could be the next stage in the row.

"This smacks of homophobia," he said to the Independent. "There would be strong grounds for legal action. They seem to be attempting to undo the democratic decision of Parliament. Orkney council runs the risk of alienating potential tourists. If this ban remains I suspect there will be calls for a tourist boycott from the gay community. Even many heterosexual people feel revolted by discrimination. It is very damaging to Orkney's image and is a major PR blunder."

Sir Peter said: "I feel like composing a comic opera and setting it in the council chambers in Kirkwall."

The composer has conducted many of the world's greatest orchestras and was made Master of the Queen's Music in 2004, on his 70th birthday.

A spokesman for the council told the Telegraph: "We hope to quickly arrange a meeting to discuss all the issues concerned and find a speedy solution that is within the constraints of the law and council procedure.”

Since the Civil Partnership Act came into force in December 2005, there have been more than 16,000 gay weddings across Britain, including some 1,000 in Scotland. – Issued by Gay Link Content

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