Brian Paddick: I'm British, but had to travel to Norway to get married

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The Independent Online

I fell in love with a Norwegian man and was able to marry him in an intensely emotional ceremony in Oslo in January 2009.

We were able to do so because the Norwegian government had decided the year before that if there was to be an end to discrimination between gay and straight people, then the distinction between civil partnerships for gay couples and marriage for straight couples had to be eliminated. It therefore decided to abolish civil partnerships and only retain marriage.

I had previously been married in the United Kingdom to a woman. I never believed I would be married again because I assumed the option would not be open to me.

When civil partnerships came into effect here, I thought that was good enough. I did not want to go again into what some people in the gay community regard as the heterosexual institution of marriage.

My opinion changed on that day in Oslo. It had quite an impact on me when I stood in front of the judge in the court and she said: "We are here to witness the marriage of Brian and Petter." It powerfully struck me how significant and how important it was for us to be treated exactly the same as if we were a straight couple.

Yet we are only married in Norway. Here in Britain our status reverts to a civil partnership and that doesn't feel the same at all.

What people often do not realise is that civil partnerships are not exactly the same as marriages. For instance, if I was to be survived by my Norwegian husband he would only get two-fifths of my pension, rather than the half he would receive if we were regarded in this country as married.

We are not treated the same in Britain as if I had married a woman on the same day last year. That isn't complete equality.

Both on practical terms and on the question of principle I believe marriage should be open to anybody.

I'm British and yet I had to go to Scandinavia to marry. For that status to be downgraded as soon as I enter my native country makes me very sad. We should be a liberal and progressive nation and to be outdone by the Scandinavians is distressing.

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