Friday, June 12, 2015

The Wedding that Wasn't


Dave and I had big plans this summer. We thought we'd get married.

I'm using the past tense here because the bureaucratic powers that be have indicated otherwise.

As you may remember, we got a Civil Union back in New Jersey in 2010, before New Jersey had same-sex marriage. A Civil Union, at the time, was the only option available to us.

Fast forward to now, when we live in a country that offers same-sex marriage nationwide. Dave and I thought our Civil Union would be seen as something of a stepping stone to the end goal of full-fledged marriage.

So we picked a date for an informal garden party at the end of July, sent e-mail invitations to our friends, and called our local borough council to arrange a wedding at the Town Hall. We hoped to marry on July 21, which would allow us to keep our anniversary date.

The council registrar, however, threw a wrench (or a "spanner," as the British call it) into the works by saying we can't get married, because in their eyes we've already been married. "You can only get married once," she told me.

Apparently our Civil Union acts as a wedding under English law. (Which we sort of knew, given that I can legally live here as Dave's spouse.) People who got a Civil Union in Britain can have it converted to a marriage, now that Britain has gay marriage -- but ours can't be converted because, according to the registrar, they "don't have jurisdiction" over civil unions from other countries.

In short, we would have to dissolve our Civil Union in New Jersey in order to get married here -- and since my legal immigration status depends on that Civil Union (as Dave's spouse, I am here dependent on his visa) we are loathe to do that. (Besides, I don't want to leave a public record somewhere indicating that we got divorced!)

I also called New Jersey to see if our Civil Union can be converted to a marriage -- and the answer is no. Apparently there we'd need to get married. I'm not sure whether dissolution of the Civil Union would be required or not, but in any case, Dave says he's not setting foot back in New Jersey under any circumstances.

So, we're kind of stuck.

It's not a big deal to me at this point. In fact, I wonder if our friends are a bit surprised at the casualness with which we've treated this development. Maybe if we learn that there's a significant material advantage -- legally, or tax-wise -- to marriage, we can pursue it further. But as it turns out almost no one can come to our party on the date we selected, so we moved the date and we'll just have a party, contingent on no nuptials. Marriage will have to wait for another time.

(Photo: Hillman butchers, Kilburn, yesterday.)

10 comments:

Sarah said...

Oh dear! But congratulations on actually being married without even knowing it anyway!

e said...

Well, that is confusing...I'm glad the English government has more sense than ours...

ellen abbott said...

leave it to the various governments to screw up people's private lives. what's the difference between a civil union and a marriage anyway (though there must be since NJ says you can still get married). you get the same benefits with both right? and what about common law marriages? I had a friend who filed a joint tax return with her boyfriend two years in a row and when they broke up she found out she had to get a legal divorce. a party sounds nice though.

Ms. Moon said...

Just have a ceremony anyway! I mean, why not? Make it your own and then the party.
It's all weird and complicated and governments are still figuring it out.
I suppose you could both come to Florida and get married in a courthouse. I doubt you'd have to dissolve the civil union.
"Civil union" sounds so...civil. Doesn't it?

Sharon Anck said...

That whole visa thing seems to have doubly complicated matters. I agree with Ms. Moon. Have the party and a ceremony anyway!

Helene Titsch said...

Huh...since Britain does not have jurisdiction over NJ, then why are they even recognizing the civil union as a 'marriage' that must be dissolved in order to get married. My boss married her partner in Connecticut (or one of those New England states)...it was all good. Oh why are things so difficult! But please have that party...you deserve it!

Elizabeth said...

Oh, dear Lord -- the bureaucracy of the world is overwhelming. I like the idea of a big celebration.

Steve Reed said...

Sarah: Ha! Right?!

E: In some ways, but they're not infallible here either!

Ellen: To be honest, I'm not sure. I think they're essentially the same, except perhaps for some federal tax stuff. I wasn't aware that you could file a joint return with someone you're not married to! One of the reasons we haven't pursued this more ardently is that practically speaking it seems to make very little difference.

Ms Moon: We've talked about that. A ceremony is actually what we LEAST want. (I am not a ceremony person.) We were thinking just an informal marriage and then the party would be the focus. So in lieu of a government marriage we've talked about giving each other rings at the party, or something like that. So who knows!

Sharon: Yeah, the visa is definitely a factor!

Helene: That's a good question! I guess they'll honor it but they won't change it. (Welcome back!!)

Elizabeth: It really is, isn't it? Makes you want to become a wild Libertarian like Rand Paul. (Well, no, not like Rand Paul...)

37paddington said...

Oh I love the idea of you exchanging rings at a grand garden party. A garden party! So English! It's almost better than getting the government involved.

Mwa said...

That sucks. I wish governments were a little more cooperative with people. I do also love the idea of rings at a garden party. Just tell the powers that be where to go.