Gay marriages welcomed by Northamptonshire registration services

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Northamptonshire County Council’s registration service is getting ready for same sex marriages, following the recent change in legislation.

This change in law, which comes into place on March 29, has prompted a surge in marriage enquiries from local couples – and has also resulted in one particularly high profile booking.

Deputy leader of the county council and cabinet member for customers and communities Councillor Heather Smith said: “This is excellent news for same sex couples across the county and we have already received scores of enquiries from gay couples seeking to tie the knot.

“Back in November 2010, our registration service, along with several other UK registration services, received a request to be married from a Northampton-based same-sex couple, Scott Maloney and Matt Toresen. The couple were supported by the Peter Tatchell Foundation and filmed by a BBC TV crew.

“They attempted to give their Notices of Marriage and had to be refused on the grounds that marriage was, at that time, legally only recognised as being between one man and one woman.

“When the change in law was announced our registration service team called Scott, who was delighted. The following day he booked his wedding to Matt, which will take place on the first day of the law change, March 29th.

“Northamptonshire Registration Service has also contacted all 44 of the same sex couples who have already made a booking and most who replied opted for a marriage ceremony.”

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: “Matthew and Scott are pioneers of marriage equality. In 2011, they were part of the Equal Love legal case in the European Court of Human Rights, which challenged the ban on same-sex marriage. This challenge helped persuade the government to legalise marriage for same-sex couples. I wish them well on their special, historic day.”

The registration service is offering same sex couples who have booked a civil partnership before March 29 the opportunity to delay their ceremony so that it can become a wedding instead.

In December last year, the government announced the introduction of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act which will come into place on March 29.

Up to this point, same sex couples have only had their relationship recognised in law by forming a civil partnership.

In Northamptonshire, the registration service had been anticipating this significant change to marriage legislation for some time and so advised same sex couples to book a civil partnership ceremony initially, and subject to the date of the new law coming into effect, change the civil partnership to a civil marriage.

The council is supportive of all couples to have the choice to marry or form a civil partnership and is now awaiting further detailed guidance from the Registrar Generals Office on what this means for couples already in a civil partnership who wish to marry. The expectation is that the legislation needed to support a conversion will not be ready until the end of 2014. For up-to-date information visit the Northamptonshire Registration Service website

In response to the county council’s announcement, Cllr John McGhee, leader of the Labour Group, said: “When the Labour government put forward changes to the law to get rid of Section 28, to end the bar on serving in the armed forces, to end discrimination in employment, to allow gay adoption, to end discrimination in the provision of goods and services, each time there was strong opposition. Now those changes are taken for granted even by those who opposed them at the time.

“As the party of equality, we are delighted that Northamptonshire’s registration services are preparing for same sex marriages.

“Matthew and Scott’s tireless campaigning for same sex marriage has borne fruit and we wish them well on their special day.”