Attitude magazine is celebrating its eighteenth birthday with a call for equal marriage rights for gay couples.

The cover of May’s edition, which features Lance Corporal James Wharton and his civil partner, asks: “Have you heard the one about the soldier who can fight for his country in Iraq but can’t get married?”

Lance Corporal Wharton, 25, who served as an armoured reconnaissance soldier in southern Iraq had the first civil partnership in the history of the Household Cavalry in 2010.

He says about proposals to allow gay couples to marry: “It’s crucial to modern equality… It’s actually ridiculous that in this day and age we’re till having to have a debate about equal rights…

“Cardinal O’Brien’s newspaper column calling gay marriage “grotesque” and the letters that have been read out in church are disgusting… I just think about what this is doing to young gay people. If I was young and vulnerable, I would find it all very upsetting.”

Various gay couples their views on marriage, including fire-fighters, a couple who have been together for 24 years and left the Church over its stance on the issue, Eastenders actor John Partridge and his partner, and a young, 21-year-old engaged couple who explain how it feels to have your relationship described as ‘a threat to society’.

Matthew Todd, editor of Attitude and Stonewall’s Journalist of the Year 2011, said: “Religious leaders such as Cardinal O’Brien and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s assertion that marriage equality would damage society is illogical hysteria. We play a full part in society, none more so than people such as Lance Corporal James Wharton and other LGBT members of the Armed Forces who risk their lives to protect a country that should show equal respect for all relationships.

“It’s actually those religious leaders who seriously damage us all by creating division and fostering an atmosphere of intolerance.”

The iPad version of the May issue is available now with the paper edition due to reach shops on Wednesday.