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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 November 2006, 16:22 GMT
Marriage trials face gay question
Flitch of bacon
Couples who are happy to be hitched get a flitch of bacon
Organisers of a historic celebration of marriage are to consider if gay couples are eligible to take part after a local newspaper posed the question.

For more than 800 years, only married couples have entered the Flitch Trials, in Great Dunmow, Essex.

They go on trial before a jury of young people in a setting like a court of law to examine if they have "repented their marriage" in the last year and a day.

The newspaper asked if gay couples with civil partnerships were eligible.

Eight couples applied to take part in the last event held in 2004 and five went on trial but at that time civil partnerships did not exist.

No regrets

One of the organisers and local vicar at Great Dunmow, Rev David Ainge said: "The question of whether gay couples could take part came from a local newspaper and was an issue we had not considered.

"The sole criteria for entrants is a marriage certificate and under the rules, despite its common parlance as a gay marriage, a civil partnership does not count.

"We have had no applications from gay couples for the next event due to take place in 2008."

The organising committee has eight members and the question about entries from gay couples will be brought up at the next meeting.

Entrants to the Flitch Trials, where successful couples receive a side of bacon as a prize, must satisfy a jury of "six maidens and six bachelors" that they have not regretted getting hitched for a year and a day.

Successful couples who are awarded the "flitch" are carried through the streets of Great Dunmow in procession.

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