Thursday, 27 November 2014

I Will .... but with a Question

The last few weeks have been on the rancid side of bearable, but today I heard some good news. I had to go out of my way to find it, and it will probably make no difference to us in the longer term, but I discovered that those who go to the register office (or other designated and licensed venue) to "convert" their civil partnerships into marriages will be able to do so free of charge. The charming registrar (who is himself waiting for their anniversary before he and his civil partner convert) explained that Stonewall, the high profile and powerful gay equality pressure group, had argued with the government that as those of us who wanted marriage would have asked for it in preference to civil partnership if it had been available at the time, we had in effect already paid, and there should be no charge. In practical terms, this means that the government (the Home Office, presumably, or maybe the Equalities Ministry?) will foot the bill for the register offices.

Everything has been done in such a hurry, and with so little forethought, that although the registrars know they will be recording conversions from the 10th of December (that's two weeks yesterday) they don't actually know what they will be recording them on, nor for how much they'll be invoicing the ministry. We will get a new certificate, backdated to the original event, but marking that it is a conversion, and changing any details which have changed since (in our case, our address, and the deaths of both our fathers). We will feature in the index of marriages, and the reference will re-direct to the register of civil partnerships. There is no computerisation in place yet for this to happen.

I'm not one to refrain from hurling missiles at the dazzling incompetence, careless talk, and empty promises, of this administration, but that's not what's on my mind just now. Back on the 16th of June 2007 we had rather a special day. It was to have been a quiet one, at the least possible cost (on account of our having the least possible money) but our friends thought otherwise and arranged a whip-round for us which meant we could afford the mark-up for a Saturday afternoon ceremony (most expensive time-slot of the week) and not one, but two, receptions, the first at my old college, Christ Church, the second at the house and garden of good friends just a little way away. There were rings, dressing up, original-design invitations, more guests that we were technically allowed at any of the venues, photographs, even a cake. Everyone called it "the wedding", and referred to it as "getting married". When I mentioned to his father that although the children were hugely welcome, we wouldn't be offended if teenagers thought this sort of thing boring and gave it a miss, I learnt that my godson said he "wouldn't miss it for the world".

So my question is, how do you "convert" or, as many people are expressing it "upgrade", an experience like that? It is irksome to think that the life we have lived these last seven years has been somehow second class. Should we be thinking of the man in the parable at the feast who was asked "friend, come up higher"? Or thankful that a wider world has realised we have had the "pearl of great price" all along?

Richard Haggis
Barton-upon-Bayswater, Oxford
November 2014


  1. I don't think you "convert" - you "complete".........

  2. Whatever people think about convert or upgrade, you already thought like a married couple, and in my eyes were married. So, this seems to me to just be a way of affirming that marriage? A bit like when we renewed our wedding vows on our 20th anniversary. We'd been married in a register office (we were both divorced and a Church wasn't an option). After we'd renewed our vows and the blessing, Jen said that she felt that she was 'really' married now? Not sure what we'd been for the preceding 20 years. I'd always thought and felt us us being married legally, but without a blessing of Grace from God of our union. I understood what she meant, and it made her more precious to me than.

    Maybe it will be somewhat similar for you both.

    Congratulations to you both.