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Couple set to become first in London to have mixed-sex civil partnership

'I have never wanted to be married. Marriage has a history of patriarchal superiority'

16 May, 2019 — By Helen Chapman

Simon Castle and Sophie Talbot

A COUPLE from King’s Cross have become the first in the borough to register for a mixed-sex civil partnership at the Town Hall.

Sophie Talbot, 55, and Simon Castle, 53, applied to the council last week to have their ceremony on December 31 – the first day that partnerships will be allowed in England and Wales after a change in the law. Campaigners say they may be the first in London.

“I will definitely be inviting good friends,” said Ms Talbot, “and because the ceremony is booked for 10 in the morning, we are thinking of going to a local greasy spoon afterwards, maybe with some champagne.”

She added: “I have never wanted to be married. Marriage has a history of patriarchal superiority. The history and the wording and the knowing you are part of a ceremony where women are essentially seen as chattels – no matter how you tinker with it – it never felt like something I could do.”

Civil partnerships were created in 2004 to give same-sex couples – who at the time were not allowed to wed – similar legal and financial protection to a marriage.

Ms Talbot said: “The whole culture of marriage is incredibly sexist and puts the expectation on men and women to behave in a certain way, to dress in a certain way and to be a certain way with their friends. I was a best woman for a good friend of mine and there is nothing against it for those who want that. But for me, it’s purely about equality.”

She added: “To have that choice feels like a fresh and positive thing. We can shape our relationship in a civil partnership as we want to do, rather than set down by a history and culture that I find problematic.”

A campaign to open up civil partnerships to everybody went as high as the Supreme Court, spearheaded by Charles Keidan and Rebecca Steinfeld, a couple who used to live in Belsize Park. They wanted to make a commit­ment to each other without getting married.

Last Octo­ber, Prime Minister Theresa May announced reforms would be made, which then became law in England and Wales in March. Local authorities are now taking bookings.

Ms Talbot, who has lived in King’s Cross since 1989, said: “There had to be a way of being an equal partner – a civil partnership is the absolutely perfect thing for that. We have been hoping for a few years now that the law would be changed and it has been in the back of our minds that we could do it. Now the time has come.”

The couple met 16 years ago through Ms Talbot’s sister, who lives in Kent. “If we were a couple of minutes apart, we could have missed each other,” said Mr Castle, who works as a repairs surveyor. “It was a very chance meeting. We have been inseparable since.”

Equal Civil Partner­ships, a campaign group, said: “Congratulations, Sophie and Simon, and well done Camden Registrar Office for booking the first mixed-sex civil partnership in London as far as we know so far – and what will be one of the earliest in the country if current timings stay.”

Councillor Richard Olszewski said: “We are proud of Camden’s reputation of being an inclusive borough that is open to all and welcome the opportunity to under­take civil partnerships for opposite sex couples. Our registration team is delighted to offer this service and we are advising all interested couples to register their interest by emailing Camden’s register office.”

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