Former Radio 4 newsreader Alice Arnold says she is determined to turn her civil partnership into a marriage.

Arnold, who departed from the BBC station two weeks ago after a 20-year career, said “the hurtful comments” by anti-equality opponents is one of the reasons why she now feels stronger about entering into a marriage with her civil partner of 6 years, sports presenter Clare Balding.

Under the government’s plans, gay couples in civil partnerships will be able to turn them into marriages, once equal marriage is on the statute book later this year.

Arnold, who has been in a relationship with Balding for a decade and once dated Sandi Toksvig, told the London Evening Standard:

When gay marriage arose as an issue, I didn’t think it was the most important thing in the world particularly. But all the hurtful comments that people have made during the debate have definitely made me feel more strongly about it. Equality is all we want. I simply don’t understand how it can possibly hurt other people to allow it — leaving the church out of this. Two-thirds of people don’t get married in church anyway.

I think people get tied up in knots about it because they find it hard to get beyond the sex thing. It’s interesting how people always concentrate on sex when discussing gay marriage but it’s not about that any more than it is for any other couple. A union is about love, friendship, support and respect.

Anyway, we’d do it because we love a good party. It wouldn’t change anything fundamental between us because we already feel we’re in a partnership that will last the rest of our lives.”

In October last year, Sir Elton John and David Furnish became one of the first British gay celebrity couples to state they too would like to turn their civil partnership into a marriage.