Brian Paddick: My marriage is ‘downgraded’ in Britain

The former most senior out gay police officer in the UK, Brian Paddick, has revealed how his wedding in Norway changed his mind about civil partnerships.

Writing in the Independent, Mr Paddick recounted his 2009 wedding to Petter Belsvik in Oslo.

In 2008, the Norwegian government abolished civil partnerships and opted to make marriage accessible to all couples.

Mr Paddick, who was the Liberal Democrat candidate for London mayor in 2008, wrote: “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.”

He added that his status of being married was “downgraded” on his return to Britain and claimed that civil partnerships do not offer complete equality.

He wrote: “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.”

Yesterday, the Liberal Democrats backed a motion to support marriage equality at their annual conference in Liverpool.

Speaking at the debate, Mr Paddick said: “Yes, we have to be sensitive to religions and what they feel on this issue, and we are not talking necessarily about forcing religions to marry same-sex people in their synagogues and churches and temples. But there should be equality. If I want to marry my same-sex partner then I should be allowed to do that.”