Today, the Same Sex Couples Act 2013 comes into effect. To mark the date, ELL talks to one of the first couples to tie the knot in London, about the myths of the same-sex marriage.
Can you imagine a life without the prospect of marriage? At first thought, the answer is probably yes. But think about it. Would that first kiss, the pursuit of a sweetheart, the sex and sharing your deepest self, be the same without the hope of ultimately hearing those four simple words: “Will you marry me?”
Can you imagine a life without – at least – having the right to decide, whether you want it or not. Until today, gays and lesbians in the UK weren’t allowed that choice. Now they have the right of “I do”.
Fact or false: Church weddings, drag queens and monogamy
Tim Groves, and his partner, Richard Jarmain, will marry as one of the first same-sex couples in the UK on Saturday at Islington Town Hall in London. They met ten years ago, and have been together for nine. 32-year-old Groves, a graphic and website designer, popped the question to 41-year-old Jarmain, in the garden of their first house six years back. He said yes – though the prospect of getting married in England remained uncertain.
With the big day now five days away, I meet them for a coffee in Tower Hamlets’ Tower Hill, where Jarmain works as a software designer, to talk about same-sex marriage – what is fact and what is myth? From the drags, the religion, the love, and the monogamy.
#1: Is there a bride and a groom?
Richard: People in our community are really trying to work that out – ’which one is the bride’? For us it’s about figuring out how to enter. One after the other is nice, because we both get an entrance. But then one of us will have to go first, which makes the other person – the bride “given away”. So we are going in together – because none of us are a bride.
#2: Does Dad get to play a part?
Tim: I could have asked my dad to “give me away”. It just didn’t feel right to me. My family will be at the front of the ceremony, but the idea of a groom being given away, just felt wrong. We have best men instead. In fact we have two each – we couldn’t decide.
#3: Will you take each other’s names?
Tim: We plan to do Richard’s name first and then mine. I like the idea of having the same surname. It’s a fundamental thing – to have the right to say, ”we are a couple”.
Recently we were travelling home from Hong Kong, going through the passport control, and the couple in front of us went together and got checked. We were angrily told, ”one at a time”.
Because there was no way we could be a couple. Saying he was my boyfriend just wasn’t enough.
Richard: Obviously the people that went ahead of us were man and woman. What we really reflected on at the time, was had we been legally married, with the same name on our passports, we could have said, ”no, you can’t stop us. We are a couple”.
I look forward to saying that.
#3: Drag or no drag?
Tim: I love drag. I’ve always loved it. I love watching drag. At my stag-do, my friends had me dress up and perform two musical numbers in drag. It was really embarrassing, but fun.
It is a stereotype that we (gays) are constantly associated with – the drag. But on the other hand – we ARE associated with them. We hang out with them, and know people that are drags.
Richard: However much you might disparage them, or see them as un-masculine, they were a visible part of the gay community, when a lot of other people struggled to have any kind of voice.
#4: Does marriage equal monogamy?
Richard: We’ve never been monogamous. Our relationship is so incredibly strong, and is based completely on trust. It just works amazingly well for us.
We get to be best friends and lovers at the same time. Tim can tell me that he had a really nice evening, because he met someone really attractive, and I can be happy for him – we can enjoy sharing that.
But at the same time, there is nobody more devoted to Tim than I am. Nobody.
Tim: We’ve always had an open aspect to our relationship. From the very beginning, that was never going to change with marriage.
When I look at other relationships of my friends in monogamous relationships, “air-quotes”, and then you’ll find out, that one of them will just have done something “that we don’t mention”.
That to me is cheating far more than someone in an open relationship.
#5: Will there be “red dresses” (previous lovers) at the wedding?
Tim: It would be a pretty empty party if there weren’t. There are more than plenty of “red dresses” in the room. But that’s fine. Everyone is open and honest about us not being monogamous, so it will not be an issue – or cause any scenes on the day.
Richard: There are some of the people that are saying at the moment, they wont see me anymore in “that context”, after we’re married. Usually people say that and it doesn’t actually happen.
#6: Are gays the new Bridezillas?
Richard: A famous drag, once said: “Remember you will always be accepted as long as you are buying product.”
When you have money in your hands – and we have seen that over the past few months – businesses start to realise they can make a profit.
We have tried to cut our own niche. On a lot of gay wedding pictures, people just look like adult twins, and we didn’t want that. So we planned our own outfits – we don’t know what the other person is wearing. But no drag queen…
Tim: We have planned basically since the very day, Nick Clegg announced the date on Twitter. We are inviting a hundred people to a secret venue, announced on our wedding website, on the day.
#7: Do you associate marriage with religion?
Tim: We don’t have any religious references in the ceremony, because it’s banned by law. If we had it in a religious venue, like in a synagogue, we would be allowed to have religious references.
Richard: But we don’t see marriage as a religious thing. The United States Supreme Court describes marriage “as the most fundamental relation between two people”. I think that is a good description.
#8: Why is ‘the right to marry’ important?
Richard: Part of it is to feel normal. Equality is about being normal – to some degree.
Tim: I like the fact that I can call Richard my husband, and that it will transcend borders. I will be able to go to any country in the world and say, “he’s my husband”, and show that we are joined for life. That is a fundamental right that stretched outside same-sex marriages.
Richard: It’s funny – most straight people have had a confused look on their face, when you mention March 29, 2014. Like, didn’t you already have that?
As told to Mathilde Ive. Tuesday, March 25, 2014. Tower Hill, London.