I’ve missed out a couple of blogs; unlike me I know but we’ve been busy getting married you see. Not that it went completely smoothly, things rarely do for us. We had our civil partnership six years ago and beforehand we had to sit down and have a proper interview with the registrar, part with some hard cash, and answer tricky questions. The query that had me stumped was; “What is the full name of your partner? I frantically scanned Heather’s face for some clues. I knew she was called Heather; it was all the other damn monikers she possesses. When it came to our actually ceremony I had the mnemonic written on my palm, “HISE” to make sure I got everything in the right order. Converting to marriage earlier this week was no easier. “What do we need to bring?” I enquired. “Nothing,” said the girl on the phone, “Just your certificate of civil partnership.” Straightforward and champion.
It got to last week when it dawned upon me that I hadn’t even bothered asking for the day of my marriage off, and furthermore there was no time on my card to even have a day off. Bugger! Fortunately I was allowed to work last Sunday and accrue a day. So I’d remembered the date alright but not the actual time. Have you ever tried to get through to Gateshead Civic Centre on the phone? Impossible let me tell you, so I presented myself there and asked them to check what time we were getting married, and while they were on – could they just make sure there was nothing else I needed to bring – apart from my certificate of civil partnership and Heather.
Turned out they not just required our certificate of civil partnership, but also proof of our address and birth certificates. A scrabbled search ensued and we found two birth certificates. Unfortunately they were both Heather’s. I applied for a copy of mine which failed to arrive, until a registrar in Newcastle got so fed up with my telephone pleadings about the “s***” I was in that she rushed one through.
The day itself was lovely, no need for witnesses this time, just Heather and I, and a charming registrar who told us that we were her “first ones” but that we would “muddle through.” And muddle through we did. Our civil partnership was annulled by the push of a computer key and we emerged from the Registry Office legally married. The law changed for people in civil partnerships on December 10th and we did the deed on the following day.
The actor Sir Nigel Hawthorne died in 2001 leaving behind his partner of many years Trevor Bentham. While married couples were able to inherit one another’s property without paying tax, gay and other unmarried couples had to pay 40% of everything above £250,000. Mr. Bentham said that his lack of rights following Sir Nigel’s death left him feeling as though they had been nothing more than flatmates in the eyes of the law. He was left not only with having to cope with the grief of losing his partner, but the fear of losing the home that they shared equally and which was rightfully his.
By the time I met Heather civil partnerships had become legal and we had ours in 2008. It really was exactly how they say your wedding day should be, the happiest day of my life. I’d had many happy days before, and I’ve had many more since, but nothing will ever quite surpass July 14th 2008. We were already living together and knew that our relationship would be permanent irrespective of whether or not we had a bit of paper to prove it, however we were anxious that neither of us would ever be left in the position where Mr. Bentham found himself to be. We didn’t want special rights, only equal ones in terms of our home, eventual inheritance, and the pensions we pay into. We had all of that before Thursday and our legal standing remains unchanged, but you know what we really wanted? We wanted the word… “married.” What’s in a word? Everything. I don’t want to be civil partnered, I want to be married. I want what everyone else has and I’m fed up with being set apart by terminology. To be able to use the word “married” instead of phrasing that instantly differentiates us from the rest of society is a massive leap ahead, and something that I didn’t think I would ever see in my lifetime, not in this country anyway.
Of course this is a personal choice and many of our friends already in civil partnerships see no need to change, and nor should they have to. In the future however we can’t really have a two tier system. Civil partnerships will either have to be opened up to all or ended. The registrar who married us on Thursday believes that it will be the latter, because she says that people simply aren’t coming forward for the civil option anymore.
Whatever your bit of paper says, a relationship between two loving and consenting adults can only ever be a valid one. Why I wonder, do some see it as their right to busy themselves with making it their business as to what others do within the privacy of their own bedroom? If what others do doesn’t involve consenting adults then there is every justification for interference, but not otherwise. I learnt a long time ago though, that people who are at ease with their sexual orientation and their own sex lives will never give anyone else any trouble. They’re too busy being happy to give a toss about what anyone else does. I use this belief to draw my own conclusions about homophobes. Think about it.