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Of no marital status

04 Aug

Every adult in this country with a partner now has the option of either marriage or a civil partnership. But spare a thought for my generation of gay men and women, now in our 60s and 70s or older. If our partners have died then we have no status whatsoever.

I was with my partner for 21 years till his death in 1991, my friend Tom was with his partner for even longer, Frank was with his partner for about 40 years, so was Brian. All our partners have now died, mostly from old age afflictions like heart attacks and strokes. None of us has any marital/widowhood status whatsoever, our long partnerships are completely unrecognized by gays and straights alike, and we are all lucky not to have been disinherited, denied visiting rights to our partners if they ended up in intensive care in hospital, barred from their funerals, and perhaps thrown out of our homes during our bereavement.

Thank goodness none of these things happened to any of us, and now it needn’t happen to anyone because there is the option of marriage or civil partnerships. But still, those of us whose partners died before civil partnership became an option, or who were too old, ill or set in their ways to contemplate it, are now treated like sad outcasts by both gay and straight communities.

We see gay couples all around us getting civil partnerships and therefore legal status and universal recognition for their same-sex partners. They get ceremonies, and probably wedding gifts as well. When their partners die, they will become widows or widowers, probably with a pension and certainly with an inheritance and right to the home and its contents whether rented or owned. 

I hesitate every time I have to fill in a form of any sort, official or unofficial, and it comes to marital status. I am not single, was never married, never had the opportunity of a civil partnership, obviously was not divorced and in the eyes of the law cannot be widowed. But I AM widowed, very much so. To tick ‘single’ would be a denial of my 21 years spent shared with my wonderful life-partner. So, legally recognized or not, I always tick ‘widowed’ with an explanation if necessary as to why I ticked that box.

There should be some retrospective recognition of long-standing gay partnerships where one of the partners died before civil partnerships became possible, or who died soon afterwards. We should be able to claim the legal status of widows/widowers, and to be able to say, like other gay couples today, that yes, we were married and lived with our partners ’till death did us part’.

All the friends mentioned above did this, often nursing our partners thru ill health. Yet we are looked upon as sad old men who couldn’t find a partner. We should be able to retrospectively register our partnership and obtain a certificate to that effect.

It may seem a small thing and of not much practical value, but it would give final recognition to partnerships which had lasted for many years. I’d like my partner’s name included in family trees that relatives have drawn up, but with no official document I can’t claim any legal status for him. And I most definitely want to be identified as his widower, as it is very unlikely I will ever have another live-in life-partner at my age, and I don’t really feel I want one nor do I seek one.

My deceased partner and I are still in touch with each other, and our love lives beyond the grave. Yet for me, and others like me, in the eyes of society our partners either didn’t exist, or were never more than friends, lodgers or flat/house sharers. Why should we be left out now marriage/civil partnership is available to every other adult couple?

Indeed, all gay partnerships in the past, which lasted many years, should be recognized as civil partnerships in all but name. A common law marriage may be, but a ‘marriage’ nevertheless, even if both partners are long since dead. All this nonsense of calling them ‘friends’ or ‘lovers’ should cease; by sticking with each other for many years they proved they were much more than that, and were as devoted to each other as any husband and wife.

One Response to “Of no marital status”

  1. 1
    Tony Says:

    Correspondence with Peter Tatchell and local MP on this subject:

    Attn Martin Linton, MP

    I enclose a short correspondence with Peter Tatchell about retrospective civil partnerships for those of us whose partners died before civil partnerships for gays became legal. There’s also a link to a blog I wrote on the subject today.

    As Peter points out, the problem would be proving the deceased partner would have consented. I don’t see this as insurmountable. Proof of living together for a long period of time would be on the electoral registers, etc., and witnesses could testify that the couple had a gay relationship and were not, for example, just joint tenants, flat sharers or home owner/tenant and lodger.

    Maybe it couldn’t amount to a legal civil partnership as such, since the deceased partner could not give their assent in any way which would be acceptable (mediumship/psychic messages are unfortunately not acceptable in law).

    However, some form of ‘common law partnership’ document to just state the bald facts: that the couple were in a stable gay relationship for so many years, shared living accommodation and their lives, and that the surviving partner is now regarded as being widowed.

    This would mean so much to those of us who have no status. For myself, I’ve taken to wearing the ring my partner gave me soon after we met on the wedding finger of my left hand. I have as much right to claim we were ‘married’ as any of the gay couples now in a civil partnership.

    I know my partner would have wanted it, quite apart from the message he sent me today. He was always encouraging other gay couples to make out Wills to each other and set things on a legal footing, and we did, after all, exchange rings all those years ago.

    Sincerely,

    Tony Papard, life-partner of George Miller during the years 1970-1991 when he died.

    Short correspondence with Peter Tatchell and link to my blog of today on this subject:

    —– Original Message —–
    From: Tony Papard
    To:
    Sent: Tuesday, August 04, 2009 1:24 PM
    Subject: Retrospective civil partnerships?

    Hi there Peter,

    I and many of my gay friends (all in our 60s and 70s or older) had no opportunity to have a civil partnership because our partners died before or soon after the law was changed to allow ‘gay marriage’. This means we have no legal status as widowers, our long-standing partnerships remain completely unrecognized, and thus are not included in family trees, etc.

    I’ve written a blog about this under today’s date, August 4th: http://tonypapard.info/ which you may find of interest.

    Many thanks,

    Tony Papard (with George Miller from September 10th 1970 when we met, till September 29th 1991 when he died)

    2009/8/4 Tony Papard :

    Hi again Peter,

    I have a way of communicating with George, my deceased partner, on important matters (not on trivialities). I’ve just done so and he says that a retrospective civil partnership would be right, it would correct past inadequacies in the law, and be proof of our partnership. This came thru in written form, as did many of his other messages, including confirmation that he saw me kiss his picture in our hallway and turn a spotlight on his AIDS quilt panel also in our hallway on the 17th anniversary of his death last September 29th, minutes after I’d done so.

    We lived at the same addresses on electoral registers (and are on council housing records as joint tenants) for many years, so it wouldn’t be difficult to prove we lived together for over 20 years.

    Tony

    Hi Tony

    Thanks for your email.

    You’re right in that in theory a restrospective civil partnership would be a good thing for same-sex partners, one of whom deceased before civil partnerships became legal. But I’m just not sure how people could determine that the deceased person would have consented.

    However, the person to lobby for the law to be changed would be you MP, as parlaiment is where the laws regarding civil partnerships are made and enacted.

    Go to http://www.theyworkforyou.com/ to find out who your MP is and start lobbying them.

    Good luck, and best wishes

    Peter


    http://www.petertatchell.net

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