Gay marriage has just been made legal in the UK. Prior to this, gay and lesbian couples could only have a civil partnership but not be married. Civil partnership ceremonies are very similar to wedding ceremonies but cannot be performed in a church, although they can be performed in a local register office (usually in a town hall) or at licensed venues such as hotels and country houses.
The legal rights enjoyed by civil partners is very similar to married straight couples but there are a few small legal differences. All the civil partnership ceremonies I have been to were weddings in all but petty legal technicality, and in each case the registrar performing them did so exactly in the spirit of their being weddings.
I am due to be civilly partnered (rolls off the tongue doesn't it?) to my female partner next year. When we booked our civil partnership this year, gay marriage was not legal.
The bill that passed allowing gay marriage was just being talked about in parliament, but it was anybody's guess how long it would take. We decided to take whatever was available on the date we wanted and not wait for the law. We were fairly sure it would pass eventually and that a provision would be included allowing anyone who had already had a civil partnership to convert to a marriage if they wished. My partner had the genius plan of going back to the town hall a year to the day of our civil partnership to get the conversion, making our anniversaries match
As the bill gathered momentum through parliament, details emerged that the hope was that the bill would pass and the first gay marriages would take place in Summer 2014, so it was definitely going to miss us. However the bill ended up passing really very quickly and, after being okayed by the House of Commons and the House of Lords, it gained royal assent on 16th of July meaning it is now law. UK gay rights group Stonewall is pushing for gay marriage to be available as soon as possible — hopefully by January 2014. The Government has not yet made any comments on the date when gay marriage would become actually available.
This is the point where my brain starts to fry…
Every civil partnership I have been to has been so special because it really had been made into a wedding. Each one was a total triumph over the shitty system that was denying the people involved the same right as straight couples. But by finally gaining the thing we were denied, it's like the injustice of the previous system has been truly exposed… that what was offered was second rate in that it was a different system for different people. Although I know many who have celebrated that differentness, but “different” as applied to you by someone else is not the same as “different” as claimed by yourself.
But if I choose marriage (assuming that the choice is available within my time frame), is that saying a civil partnership isn't good enough for me? By extension, what does it say that about my friends' civil partnerships?
Many other couples I know who are already civil partnered are beginning to have conversations about whether to — what everyone is jokingly calling — “upgrade.” Instinctively the term “upgrade” rankles, but after much deliberating I do think that in in a sense it is an upgrade. Not because there is anything wrong with a civil partnership in itself, but because there is something wrong with not being able to choose. In this sense it would be an upgrade to a choice. But it still feels odd.
We have these choices now in the UK, which is undeniably wonderful, but as with all choices it can be bewildering.
How does the option to get legally married in some regions change your wedding planning?