A British gay couple are distraught after being told they must dissolve their civil partnership if they want to marry.
Paul and Michael Atwal-Brice, fathers from Barnsley to adopted identical twin autistic boys, hoped they would be able to celebrate history being made on 29 March.
England and Wales gay couples, on this date, will be the first to walk down the aisle and get married in the UK.
But there’s a snag. If the same-sex couple is already in a civil partnership, legalized in 2004, and they want to be married then they must wait until the end of 2014 to convert their union into marriage.
Or alternatively, as the Atwal-Brices have been told, they must dissolve their civil partnership of six years.
‘We’re being penalized because we’re in a civil partnership,’ Paul Atwal-Brice told Gay Star News.
‘No couple should be asked to divorce or dissolve to be able to get married. To dissolve a civil partnership, you have to go to court, and you have to have a valid reason.
‘Wanting to stay together and be married is hardly a valid reason to dissolve a civil partnership.’
As soon as the date was announced, the couple sorted nearly everything they needed for their perfect wedding. They put down deposits on cakes, suits, flowers, and had two venues nearly booked.
The couple, who adopted their boys Levi and Lucas shortly after their civil partnership in 2008, had also planned to invite 50 disabled children and their families to their wedding.
Instead of gifts, they were asking their guests to donate money to disability charity Caudwell Children for their wedding.
‘As a family, we face many challenges. We have to fight for everything,’ Atwal-Brice said.
‘To fight to get married on the 29th is absolutely appalling. To be told you have to basically separate from each other.
‘That leaves us in a legal turmoil. Legally we’re not each other’s next of kin if that happens.’
The couple are now considering their options, and are hoping their lawyers will find a loophole to enable them to get married on 29 March.
The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has explained it will take longer for couples in civil partners to get married as computer systems have to be reformed.
In response to this, Atwal-Brice said: ‘It’s just disgraceful. We are a family. And it’s so important for us to be part of history.
‘To say we couldn’t get married on the day, with our two disabled boys, because of computer systems. It’s just not fair on gay people.’
‘A lot of same-sex couples might not know about this. The notice of marriage has to be on the 13 March.
‘What is wrong about being part of history in the UK? We might not be a normal family, but we’re very unique. And we want to be married.’