Saturday, 21 April 2012

With this invoice I thee wed

Gay people charged 4 times more by the state to 'marry' their partner than religious couples

... says Éoin Clark. And he is right... 

Should you wish to mark your commitment and have it sanctioned by Belfast City Council, these are the options (Saturday prices)..

  1. A civil wedding in the registrars office = £289
  2. A civil wedding in an 'approved' venue = £273
  3. A civil wedding in a venue of your choice = £273 + £400 'to apply for a temporary marriage license'
  4. A Religious wedding = £40
In his bid to paint a picture of gayism, Éoin does needlessly focuses on that angle.. when the problem he identifies equally impacts any couple who don't want a religious wedding. The Gays do, it must be said, lose even the option of the cheap £40 wedding deal because all of those loving deities aren't, actually, all that loving at all.
I am bored.. so I did my own research. What do those options really mean??

Option 1 gives us a registrar and a room which is licensed to hold ceremonies. So it's the full-service package.. nothing more to pay.

Option 2 gives us a registrar who will come to a room that we've arrange ourselves from the list of approved venues. With this option, we have to pay whatever our chosen rooms costs.

Option 3 is the same as option 2, except you can be a maverick and choose any place you want to get married/partnered. That means, obviously, that you need to drop £400 on a license so that said venue can be temporarily approved. I expect that if you don't get married in a place that the council has approved then your first night of bliss will be a messy disappointment and any children you create/adopt will be struck down with a n odorous pox. Oh, and the council needs to do a comprehensive Health and Safety assessment of the venue. I'm serious about the last one. Anyway, here, again, you obviously have to pay for your venue yourself.

Option 4 is the cheapo Jesus-friendly option, and it's only £40 because God/Allah/Icke is all powerful and will be really angry if the fee is any higher than a mid-price seat at Stamford Bridge. Also, with the £40 option you don't get a venue or a registrar.. you have to make all of your own arrangements. That, one suspects, means paying the church/etc whatever it has decided to charge for weddings these days (which probably depends on how demanding the last lot of abused kids were at out-of-court-settlement-o'clock).

But the point is that the £40 option is very very different from all the others. It seems to be nothing more than a small admin fee for, one presumes, entering the details of the wedding into a poorly-secured database so that someone can hack in and steal all your DVD's whilst you're on honeymoon.

All that said, Éoin is still right. How come people who don't want / can't have a religious ceremony are stuck with a council ceremony which is (possibly) expensive? Is it really the case that the only people who can perform these ceremonies are people blessed by an imaginary man in the sky or a real man at the council? And if the council must stick it's oar into these things, it might at least like to avoid profiteering and this indirect, yet inevitable, discrimination against those who don't want religion involved in their proceedings.

I say well done to Éoin, who is generally a fan of the state getting involved in as much as possible, for spotting something where it should be involved far less. And this is an easy fix. Make the £40 fee available to anyone who can turn up with a signed contract of partnership. The state can make a standard contract available if it so wishes, and can charge more for anyone who wants to write their own. If being married/partnered is to have implications for things like tax, benefits, children etc then I'm OK with there being some degree of regulation of the contract.. but why the fuck does it need any say in where two people chose to make that contract, or who (if anyone) is standing in front of them at the time?

I didn't ask to be born