Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Local News - Durness

I am not looking for comments on this, that's not to say you can't, but with this being such an emotive subject it is a discussion that needs to be had face to face (if it needs to be had at all)

A gay couple from NorthWest Sutherland will be amongst the first in Scotland to tie the knot under new "gay marriage" laws that come into effect next month.

Kevin Crowe (54) and Simon Long (65) who have been partners for nearly 16 years, run the well-known Loch Croispol Bookshop and Restaurant at Balnakeil Craft Village, Durness.

Thanks to the new Civil Partnership Act, they will soon be able to make the same legal commitment to each other as heterosexual couples.

The act comes into force on 5th December, when same-sex couples will be able to notify registrars of their intention to form a civil partnership. After giving due notice, the earliest that a ceremony can take place is December 21.

Having waited a long time for the law and public attitudes to change, Kevin and Simon are determined to take advantage of the new legislation at the earliest opportunity, and have booked the Rhiconich Hotel for their "wedding" on 21st December.

After signing an official civil partnership document before a registrar and two witnesses, the couple plan to have a religious service followed by a buffet and reception.

Mr Crowe told The Northern Times earlier this week that the arrangements were in place and he and his partner were hugely looking forward to the day.

"We've always wanted to make this sort of commitment to each other and have waited a long time for it to be legally allowed. It's partly about the personal commitment and the love we have for each other, which is very important, but also partly about the legal recognition and the implications of that, " he said.

"It is a very, very important step forward and it does demonstrate how far we have come in the last four decades. Forty years ago Simon and I would have been put in prison for what we do. It was only in 1967 that acts between two men were decriminalised."

But Mr Crowe said he felt the new legislation still did not go far enough, in that the civil partnership registration was an entirely secular process and did not include the word marriage.

"I think it's sad that legally we cannot use the word marriage, and I also think it's sad that legislators have refused to allow a religious element in the official part of the proceedings because a lot of gay people do have religious beliefs, including Simon and me."

Although the act does not use the term "marriage, " and prohibits any official religious element, the civil partnerships have been designed to be as close to a marriage contract as possible.

Lesbians and gay men in a civil partnership will be treated in the same way as married couples when it comes to inheritance, state benefits, tax breaks and some pension benefits.

Mr Long was formerly an Episcopalian priest in a country parish in southeast Leicestershire. Mr Crowe was an HIV/Aids worker for Leicester social services. They met at a club in Leicester.

An active lobbyist for gay rights, Mr Crowe said: "For a long, long time when we lived in England and right from the early 80s I was involved in gay campaigning on a number of issues, including age of consent, Section 28 and gay marriage. That involved signing petitions, lobbying politicians and demonstrating."

The couple moved to north-west Sutherland in 1999 and opened the restaurant and bookshop after having holidayed in the area for years.

"We both decided it was where we wanted to live, so it was just a matter of finding a way to make a living. It's the best step we've every made. Durness is a wonderful place to live - despite the weather - and the community have been very welcoming, " he said.

A large number of local people have been invited to attend the function at the Rhiconich Hotel, as well as friends of the couple from further south and England.

Local musicians John Morrison and Marty Mackay have been asked to play.

Mr Crowe said:

"Because of the constraints on the premises, we've not been able to invite everyone we would have wished, and we're just hoping that those who haven't received an invitation will not feel let down."

Durness businessman Ronnie Lansley, who will be taking the photographs at the wedding and also made the invitations, said:

"I think they have settled into the community well and run a much needed business, and I'm sure the people of Durness will wish them well."

Taken from 'Durness News'


Gillian said...

Wow! You have to give them some credit. It can't have been an easy decision to make. How many of us would have the guts to stand up for something we believe in, something so provocative?

I bet we all tell ourselves that we would stand up for our faith, no matter what, but would we? Or would we be too scared of the consequences.

dinsy said...

We were at this bookshop for an all-day breakfast in September, on a wet miserable Saturday lunchtime. It's a good place, and I can thoroughly recommend the all day breakfast. It's a good bookshop too! It's quite strange reading the book titles on the spines off the shelves whilst tucking in to bacon and eggs, and black pudding.

They are good people, I wish them well.


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