As the nine hours of debate around equal marriage drew to a close in the House of Lords this evening, the peers began to get inventive in using examples of fantasy marriages to George Clooney, in order to give legal definitions of issues such as adultery.
Baroness Stowell of Beeston, the Conservative peer with responsibility to take the same-sex marriage bill through the House of Lords, who happens to be single, in a similar fashion to previous debates around the bill, brought up George Clooney at the Report stage for the bill, and used her imaginary marriage to him to define the difference between adultery and unreasonable behaviour.
She was responding to an amendment put forward by Baroness Butler-Sloss, which would have differentiated the language used with regards to adultery, and unreasonable behaviour, in terms of sex in straight and gay couples’ marriages.
The Tory peer began by saying that, on leaving the chamber at Committee stage, she had been speaking to a policeman who found it funny that the peers had discussed adultery in such detail, but that he had thought that adultery would not apply any more, if the equal marriage bill were to pass.
Baroness Stowell said: “I explained to him how adultery works”, which was met with laughter from the peers. She continued: “because he found that so interesting, I thought i would just do that for the benefit of the Noble Lords.”
The Baroness then went on to talk about her fantasy marriage to actor George Clooney, but speculated on whether he might have affairs with several male and female peers, in order to define adultery.
“As the law stands, if I was married to George Clooney, and he was to have a sexual affair with the Noble Baroness Lady Thornton, say, that would be adultery,” she said.
“If I was married to George Clooney and Mr Clooney had sexual relations with the Noble Lord, Lord Alli; that would not be adultery because he would not have been able to have the sexual act which is very specifically defined in law, but should I wish to divorce Mr Clooney on those grounds, I would divorce him on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour.
“In future, if the Noble Lord, Lord Alli, was to mary Mr Clooney, and Mr Clooney was to have an affair with me, and who would be able to blame him in those circumstances, then that would be adultery, and the Noble Lord Lord Alli, should he choose to would be able to divorce him on those grounds.
“If the Noble Lord Lord Alli was married to Mr Clooney and Mr Clooney were to have an affair with, say, my Noble friend Lord of Black of Brentwood, that would not be adultery, but Lord Alli would be able to divorce him, should he choose to, on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour.”
She said that those legal definitions would seve in future in such situations, and were reasonable provisions. She then took a moment to note the serious nature of marriages breaking down, and said it was sad that such provisions were necessary.
“I would just add that adultery, and when a marriage breaks down, it is a very serious matter, and one which is of deep regret,” she said, continuing to say, however; that divorces on the grounds of adultery are on the fall, and currently stand around 18%.
She said she hoped that all marriages, gay and straight “will continue, and that they will remain happy and contented, but if that was not the case, we believe that the provisions which exist, and will be there in future, will be enough for divorce to take place”
The amendment by Baroness Butler-Sloss was later withdrawn, although she did not see the funny side of Baroness Stowell, and other peers’ comments around her amendment.