CommunityPam's House Blend

For British gays, new law rings in wedding bells

Britain this week brought the Civil Partnerships Act into force. The act grants same-sex couples almost identical rights to those enjoyed by heterosexual married couples; the main difference being that a civil partnership cannot be registered on religious premises.

It seems a bit discriminatory to me that gay people of faith won’t be able to consecrate their union in the house of worship of their choice. However, if that’s the small bone that has to be tossed to the fundies, so be it. Most churches are plenty anti-gay, anyway.

“The government doesn’t support gay marriage, but you’d have to look hard to find the differences between the rights and responsibilities which it affords straight and gay couples,” said Britain’s Gay Times “Pride and Groom” December issue, adding that “in the media, it’s increasingly being called ‘gay marriage.'”

England will see its first wave of partnership ceremonies on Dec. 21, after registered couples have waited out a 15-day “cooling off” period.

“Cooling off?” Alright, boys, we know you think you’re gay and in love, but let’s give you a fortnight and a day to really consider it. Who knew that marriage was such an incredibly important bond that government feels compelled to force couples in love to wait fifteen days to be absolutely sure? I mean, when I got married, nobody forced me into a waiting period.

Oh, wait, I forgot, my wife and I are straight, therefore, we can be trusted to be mature and wise enough to make important life-altering commitments to each other without government interference.

A gay wedding “has a lot more emotion involved [than a heterosexual wedding] because some couples have waited 20 years to do this, so, it’s 20 years in the making and it all comes out on that one big day,” said Ben Spence, owner of Pink Products and co-owner of the Gay Wedding Show.

And then, of course, there’s the fact that it is two gay men planning a wedding…

Not only will their marriage represent a declaration of their love for one another, but it will also ensure that they will be able to live together legally forever — that is, as long as they don’t move back to the United States.

Although Mason, 40, and Cairns, 33, will be spouses in the eyes of the U.K. government — and for the purposes of citizenship, hospital visitation rights, pensions, inheritance taxes and entitlement to most parental rights — the United States government will not recognize their union.

“He won’t be able to travel any more freely to the States than he can now; he still couldn’t be a U.S. citizen or resident,” Mason said of his partner.

About a dozen countries in Europe allow same-sex unions, as do Canada and New Zealand, and South Africa recently paved the way to introduce them as early as next year. But in the United States, same-sex couples only have increased rights in Massachusetts, where gay marriage is allowed; Vermont, which recognizes civil unions; and in a handful of other states and cities that make some allowances for gay couples.

Despite facing some homophobia living in the Bible Belt, “to be very honest with you, if we could live in the States today, we’d go home,” Mason said. But for both partners to work, own property and be legally recognized as a couple, they had to cross the Atlantic.

“Because America doesn’t have the same thing, Tony’s taken all his investments out of the United States, sold the house and taken his education with him, and in the end Britain’s benefiting from his investments and knowledge,” Cairns said of his American partner.

Sheesh, we’re losing all our engineers to China and India, now we’re losing all our gays to Europe and South Africa! Who will be left to engineer technologically marvelous buildings and design the fabulous interiors therein?

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