Same-sex weddings, TB in pets and a fall in clown numbers in the papers

The first same-sex marriage ceremonies in England and Wales are marked in Saturday's newspapers.

Campaigners have been battling to get the rules changed for years and now are hailing the "momentous day", reports the Daily Mirror.

The Independent features a picture of Nic Pettit and Tania Ward on its front page ahead of their "big day" in Brighton. The couple tell the paper they were opposed to a civil partnership as they felt it "emphasised being different".

"Billows of confetti across the country this weekend mark a milestone in our social evolution even if there are a few practicalities that will take time to work through," says the Independent in an editorial.

Among the couples taking the opportunity to get hitched at the first available opportunity at Islington Town Hall in north London just after midnight when the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act passed into law were Peter McGraith and David Cabreza, who have been together for 17 years, says the Times.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Peter McGraith and David Cabreza were among the first to be married after the law change

Writing in the Guardian, Philip Hensher says "Like anyone else, you can now get married if you want to, or you don't have to if you don't want to".

But in the Daily Telegraph, art critic Brian Sewell says he is no convert to the idea. "Most of us are content with what we now have... and are happy to respect the deeply held belief of sincere, thoughtful and informed Christians for whom marriage is the one sacrament in which we cannot share.... the battle still to be won is against prejudice."

Polling reported by the Daily Telegraph suggests the introduction of same-sex marriage could cost the Conservatives support in the local and European elections in May.

The Daily Mail's Andrew Pierce believes the government should have promoted "true equality for gay couples, by bolstering the rights of those who enter civil partnerships", including himself.

"The introduction of gay marriage was, politically, a disastrous miscalculation," he adds.

The Sun agrees there is a potential impact on Tory support but says David Cameron was "brave" to back such a law.

And it says there is "no problem" with something that "increases the sum of human happiness... We will eventually forget it was ever controversial".

Stock market 'drama'

Matters of finance feature on several front pages.

The Guardian claims that a currency union will eventually be agreed between an independent Scotland and the remainder of the UK to ensure fiscal and economic stability on both sides of the border. The paper reports a government minister said to be at the heart of the pro-union campaign has suggested the "outlines of a deal" could be forged over the UK's desire to maintain Trident nuclear weapons at the Faslane naval base.

But the paper notes that his statement contrasts "sharply with the public position" of the main Westminster parties and quotes Alistair Carmichael, the Scotland Secretary, as saying a currency union would be "damaging" and "simply will not happen".

According to the Daily Telegraph, Culture Secretary Maria Miller made a profit of more than £1.2m after selling a property at the centre of an investigation into her use of taxpayer-funded expenses. The paper says the cross-party Standards Committee is set to order her to repay up to £5,000 for over-claiming on her mortgage for the Wimbledon house and she could come under pressure to step down.

A source close to Mrs Miller has said "it is not surprising" the value of the house - bought for £234,000 - went up to such a level over a decade, and denied claims the culture secretary had not "co-operated fully with the inquiry".

Meanwhile, the Financial Conduct Authority's announcement that it would be investigating insurance policies sold between the 1970s and 2000 is examined.

The Daily Express says it is "encouraging to see unscrupulous companies finally put under pressure even if some customers have been forced to put up with their tactics for more than 40 years".

But the Financial Time reports that insurance firms and instiutional investors have attacked the City watchdog over the way it announced the inquiry, claiming that a delay in clarifying the actual scope of the probe sparked a share price sell-off. In an editorial the FT says the government has "rightly shown a renewed commitment to savers" but believes the time for the type of review planned by the FCA "is long gone".

Nils Prately in the Guardian also wonders what can be achieved. A "long list of exclusions would seem to leave little to fight for," he writes. "Friday's drama in the stock market looks suspiciously like a bad case of what can happen when a new regulatory body spends too much time thinking about its own image."

News of another FCA probe makes the front page of the Times. It reports that hundreds of thousands of victims of credit and debit card fraud who were denied refunds could get their money back when a crackdown on banks that try to wriggle out of paying compensation is announced next week.

'Condemned cats'

There are more concerns expressed over the revelation that two people in England have developed tuberculosis after contact with a domestic cat.

The Daily Mail tracks down teenager Jessica Livings, from Newbury, Berkshire, said to be the first person in the world to contract the disease in this way.

The 19-year-old, was treated for pneumonia after contracting bovine tuberculosis and had to have emergency surgery. It is thought she caught the disease when cleaning a wound on her kitten Onyx, which her family had taken in. The pet thought to have picked up TB from badgers.

The Times reports that vets have accused the Chief Veterinary Officer of being "too quick to condemn cats to death" after advising that animals diagnosed with the bacterium that causes tuberculosis should all be put down.

And the Daily Telegraph reports that there is concern that public health officials failed to warn cat owners of the risk of catching TB from their pets, despite knowing of the risk since November. Cat owners told the paper they should have been informed of the situation earlier.

Meanwhile, the Sun says the news about TB being passed on by cats led animal health experts to warn that dogs can also spread the disease. Under the headline, "tuberculosis Rex" it reports the case of a child in Gloucestershire who caught TB from a pet dog last year was the first case of its kind in the UK.

Not funny

The UK's clowns look like they might be shedding tears - for according to the figures cited in the Daily Telegraph, they are in danger of dying out.

Clowns International, the UK organisation for the performers, has seen its membership plummet from almost 1,000 in the 1980s to little over 100.

And the average age of the remaining members is rising, with fewer young clowns joining its ranks, says the paper.

A growing number of people are said to find clowns sinister, amid negative portrayals in horror films.

The numbers employed in circuses have dropped. At the same time CI says many of those who are still active have been forced to go part time, as traditional job opportunities, such as children's parties, dries up.

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