A few months back, in one of my first columns for RTN, I announced that I was planning to marry my long-term partner, Marcus Robinson – and on Tuesday, September 5, the knot was tied at the registry office in Gibraltar.
I explained that the principle reason for my decision was to ensure our relationship would be recognised by all relevant authorities in the event of some life-changing development in either of our lives.
Married partners, for example, have immediate access to all relationship entitlements, protections and responsibilities.
A marriage certificate also allows married partners to easily prove their legal rights if challenged, for example in emergency situations. The ability to quickly and easily prove one’s relationship status is particularly important for same-sex partners because prejudice against gay relationships can mean legal rights are denied.
Friends and relatives were delighted that we planned to be hitched, but all seemed puzzled as why we chose Gibraltar. The answer is simple: it was by far the easiest option.
I would have liked to have married in the UK as we are both British citizens, but to do so we would have had to provide proof of living there; council tax bills and so forth. Having lived in Spain for almost seven years, we were unable to do so.
Spain was the next option, but the complexities of doing so beggar belief. Plus, I was given to understand that, in our part of Spain – the Costa Blanca – the waiting time is around 17 months.
After someone suggested Gibraltar, I made contact with a company called Sweet Gibraltar Weddings who were able to provide a basic package, including all legal fees, for under £500. All we needed in the way of paperwork was our birth certificates, passports, and proof of having stayed for at least one night in the British Overseas Territory.
My main concern, of course, was whether our marriage would be recognised in Spain. Yes, but with the proviso that the marriage certificates were specially certified. Registry office officials did that for an additional fee of £60.00.
At this point I would like to thank Chamaine Cruz, of Sweet Gibraltar Weddings, for the highly professional manner in which her company dealt with our wedding; the registry office staff who treated us with the utmost courtesy and respect, and seven friends and family who came from Spain and the UK to celebrate the event.
Heartfelt thanks too to Mark Seargeant, of Company Bar in Benidorm Old Town, for driving us to Gibraltar.
I should point out that registrars in Gibraltar are not obliged to carry out same-sex weddings if it runs against their religious beliefs. On 26 October 2016, the Civil Marriage Amendment Bill 2016 was passed in the Gibraltar Parliament with unanimous support from all 15 members present during the vote.
An amendment to remove a controversial part of the bill, which allowed deputy registrars to opt out of conducting same-sex marriages, was defeated 11 to 4 with only some of the Opposition MPs voting in favour.The law now requires that, in circumstances where a deputy registrar does not agree to officiate a same-sex marriage, an alternative registrar must be assigned to conduct the marriage.
The bill received royal assent on 1 November and took effect on 15 December 2016.The first same-sex marriage in Gibraltar was performed the following day.
The funniest moment of our trip occurred in La Línea de la Concepción, the Spanish town closest to the Gibraltar border. Marcus, Mark and I stayed there for one night before the border crossing, and Mark asked the manager of our budget hotel, Hostal Paris, whether there were any gay bars in the town. He reacted with total shock, and – astonishingly – declared that “there are no homosexuals in La Linea.”
In fact, the two closest gay bars to the town are in Marbella, about 73km away.