17 May 2012

United we stand...

Walt and I have been living together since June 1, 1983 — for nearly 30 years. We met in Paris in 1981, became friends, and later became a couple after we moved back to the U.S. in 1982. Our "couplehood" has survived moves from Washington DC to California, quite a few stressful jobs and job changes, and finally a premature "retirement" and a move to France.

A friend of a friend recommended Pat as someone who
could officiate at our ceremony. She did a great job.


Last year when the state of New York passed a law instituting what is called "marriage equality," we decided to make the trip to Albany — the state capital and Walt's home town — to see if we could qualify for a marriage license. I won't go into all the details, but the fact is that we weren't absolutely sure we could get all the required documents together. Walt did much Internet research on New York State web sites so we would be prepared.

Our friends Lorraine and Evelyn, along with their husbands,
witnessed our marriage ceremony.


I guess what was really going on was that we didn't believe we would actually be able to formalize our long-time relationship and make it official. Looking back, can anyone believe that in our lifetimes couples like us would ever be able to be legally married?

Getting legally married in New York is just the first step in the long process we have set in motion. At this point, France won't recognize our marriage, so our New York union is mainly symbolic. The new French president, however, has made the institution of marriage equality for all couples a priority of his new administration.

Lorraine took pictures with Walt's camera and Evelyn
took pictures with mine during the ceremony.
Thanks to Evelyn for the pictures here.

We hope that our New York marriage will facilitate a subsequent marriage in France, which will be more than symbolic for us. The practical issues around marriage for us are inheritance laws in France and retirement pension benefits.

Today, if I suddenly died, Walt would inherit my half-interest in our house near Saint-Aignan. In 2003, we set ourselves as a corporation in France so that we would be each others' heirs. But last year we found out that as long as we remained officially unrelated business partners — that is, not married and not partners in what's called a "civil union" or, in France, a Pacs (Pacte civil de solidarité) — the one of us who survives the other will be required to pay a 60% tax on the value of the half-interest in our house that he inherits. That's not a typo — 60%.

We got married under a giant weeping cherry tree in
Washington Park in Albany NY. That's our friend
Lewis (Evelyn's husband) in the picture with us.


Before New York passed marriage equality and we decided to come here to get married, we had started looking into the possibility that two foreigners in France might be able to form a Pacs. Early on in our French residency, we had been told that as foreigners we didn't qualify. Then we found out that we in fact would be allowed to be pacsés, foreigners or not, because we are legal residents.

The process of gathering the documents required for the Pacs application seemed complicated. I went to see a government-licensed contract lawyer in Saint-Aignan — a notaire in French. She said there would be a six-month delay because the Tribunal de Grande Instance, a kind of "superior court" to which you have to apply for the Pacs, had a significant backlog of cases of all kinds. (I just read on a web forum that the French courts recently stopped making appointments for Pacs applications, and won't start again before December because it expects significant changes in the law.)

Albany city hall drew up our official marriage certificate on
the same day as the ceremony instead of making us wait
three weeks for it as other couples have to do.


The documents you need for the Pacs include your parent's birth certificates. I've already written about the complexities of obtaining birth certificates in different U.S. states. Sometimes you have to show up in person to make the application, and in other cases you can only pay by money order, and France no longer uses those. Only in person can you pay by credit card. And now we've learned that Walt will have to obtain a court order — a lengthy and expensive process — before he can get his mother's and father's certified birth certificates.

As we were researching the requirements for forming a civil union, we learned that New York would actually let us get married. Walt grew up here in Albany NY, and has friends and family here. We decided to take the plunge. And then the Socialist Party candidate for the French presidency, François Hollande, announced that he would push for marriage equality there. Both candidates said they planned, in any case, to simplify the Pacs process.

So we decided to await further developments. Meanwhile, we planned a trip to NY and got married here. It can't hurt, we figure, and now we are official somewhere, at least. I for one never imagined that this would be possible in my lifetime. And I never imagined that at the age of 63 I'd be getting married, after a 30-year "engagement." It feels pretty good.

68 comments:

  1. Congratulations to you both. I'm so happy for you. As I mentioned on Walt's blog, I didn't have a clue you were planning this. Although I should have guessed it when you posted about getting birth certificates, which you needed to acquire French citizinship !!!??? How cheeky of you ... or is that your next big project? Looking forward to celebrate your union in three weeks time! Martine

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  2. Ken, Again, Congratulove to you and Walt.
    AARO has held a couple of estate programs and one of the things I have learned is that it does not depend on where the wedding occurred; it's a matter of where you live. I have no idea how France will deal with your marriage,(will they honor it, treat it as a PACS, or something else?) but you should be in touch with a good estate lawyer and have wills registered both in the States and here. If you need a recommendation, I can give you one in private email.
    Hope you bring some summery weather back with you.
    Again, best wishes to you both.

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  3. Congratulations, and best wishes for a long and very happy life together !!

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  4. What a great surprise. Congratulations to you two from Gloria and Dennis Martin. I just got up this morning to start my last day as a professor of English and yours was the news that started my day. Sometimes things happen that are better than you ever could imagine. And I'm going to have a great day too.

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  5. Felicitations! I hope Francois Hollande will legalize gay marriage. I have always wondered why France is taking so long to do so.

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  6. I send congratulations to you and Walt, and sincere best wishes for your next 30 years as a couple! What a delightful surprise your news is. Yes, who would have thought this would be possible in our lifetime.

    Maggie

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  7. "Sometimes things happen that are better than you ever could imagine" Thanks for this quote Gloria or Dennis.
    It captures in words the joy of this wedding. I am honored to have been a witness to it.

    I'll never forget May 10,2012.

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  8. Congratulations from all of us here in Austria.

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  9. Congratulations. The setting looked wonderful and you and Walt look tremendously happy. I echo the sentiments of others - many more happy years together. A celebratory lunch together with you and Walt upon your return to France is in the planning.

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  10. Congratulations to you both! And here's to the next 30 :-)

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  11. Congratulations again for both of you. Nice pictures of "les jeunes mariés." LOL

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  12. Congratulations again :-)

    LIke Y mentioned last Saturday , I thought that something interesting was going to happen during your visit in Albany ( now if I can only pick the right numbers for a big jackpot ).

    As far as birth certificate in France, one is required to make the application to the mairie of the location where one is born ( or the parents or grand-parents). If you don't have the details or info, it is time consuming. same thing for marriage and death certificate. One thing that comes in handy is the famous " livret de famille" that gives some information on the parents.

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  13. Evelyn, how wonderful that you were there!!!!!

    Ken... all of these good practical reasons are important and it's an interesting background on how you came to do this on May 10, 2012... but, those practicalities don't take away from the beauty of the fact that it is FABULOUS that you two are finally MARRIED!!! I was grinning alllll the way to school today, after reading Walt's post about this.

    Elliot and I had simpler practical reasons to finally get married (like, I couldn't take "family leave" for him if he were ill, and I wouldn't have even had the right to a single day of funeral leave if he died!), but the bottom line is that is is very, very special to finally actually be able to say, "This is my husband."

    I'm bursting with joy for you!

    Judy

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  14. Well, nobody can say you rushed into this.

    It has been one of the great pleasures of our lives that Norma and I have re-connected with you, Ken, and come to know, admire, and appreciate Walt.

    "May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind always be at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your faces."

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  15. Congratulations! May you have many more years together.
    (Not all of us in NC voted for the new amendment.)

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  16. Super congratulations -- the post made me cry. May this be possible for all couples soon -- in Europe and in the U.S.!

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  17. Congrats. We have the bubbly - see you for dinner at Carole and Michaels in a week.
    Sue and Leon

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  18. Congratulations to you both! And what a surprise.

    Best wishes from Ginger and me (and J, who is out now). What you're doing now may make the road smoother for him in the future.

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  19. Congratulations! May you both be very, very happy. Is Walt going to bake the wedding cake?

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  20. Congratulations, Ken and Walt! I'm thrilled for you.

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  21. Cheryl, good thought!!! I want to see a Walt-made wedding cake!!

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  22. I have the bubbly in my refrigerator - it was there just waiting for an excuse to celebrate!
    What wonderful news to receive this morning! I send my best wishes to both of you. I, too, thought your trip was rather secretive (you usually give us bloggers a little advance notice of upcoming trips!) and I was feeling something unusual was afoot. I will be toasting you and Walt tonight.

    Mary in Oregon

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  23. Congratulations and very best wishes for the future.

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  24. PACS info: On a serious note, Ken, have you seen this extremely informative page on Jennifer Wagner's ielanguages website? (I think she may read your blog? She reads Amy H.'s) I think you might find great info here: Pacs info

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  25. Wonderful! So happy for you!

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  26. 30 years?

    Are you two sure you're not jumping into this?

    All kidding side, congratulations!!! Thanks for sharing this and for the wonderful pictures!

    Meanwhile, Danny and I continue to live in state-mandated sin after 12 years together....

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  27. CONGRATULATIONS!!!

    I am so, so happy for you both!

    So the next time I see you, you will be an old married couple.

    Big Hugs,

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  28. Félicitations!! Here's to another 30 years, at least.

    My niece and her wife live in California, got married in Canada and again in SF during the brief time those marriages were being allowed. Those two, along with a large traditional, if unlicenced, wedding performed between the Canadian and SF ones by a rabbi makes three weddings for them, and they're still not recognized as spouses by the US government.

    Hope the French Republic does better by you.

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  29. CONGRATULATIONS I AM SO HAPPY FOR YOU. I'm sorry I didn't know ahead of time I might have been able to be there. I love you both and am glad to have a new brother-in-law to add to my new son-in-law.

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  30. Congratulations! Such very good news. *sniffle* I always cry at weddings.
    Best wishes, a votre sante, joy.
    (But why so much difficulty for Walt to get his parents' records? Most states are helpful.)

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  31. Felicitations to both of you! Cyber-champagne bubbles and cyber-hugs!

    ~Margaret (your friend from WCHS and Sportsman's)

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  32. Ken and Walt,
    Here's wishing you many, many years of happiness together. You two make a really great couple.
    Dean

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  33. Oh, such happy news! My heartiest congratulations to you both. I know Bill's got a huge grin on his face in heaven. Mary Lorenz

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  34. Mary and I congratulate you on your happy news. We actually guessed it. We'll raise a glass to celebrate the occasion. May you have a long and happy life together. Three Cheers!

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  35. Congratulations! We're waiting until ALL states will recognize our union. Perhaps Monsieur Holland will make you legal in France.

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  36. Congratulations again, to you and Walt! It's a shame that you have to jump through so many hoops to make your relationship official.

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  37. Brilliant news! Best wishes to you both.

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  38. Pauline and I have raised a glass of Poirée to you.... congratulations both, the happiness is clear for all to see!
    Tim

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  39. congrats congrats congrats! So happy for you guys!

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  40. Félicitations, Guys ! Taking the plunge was THE thing to do, bravo !!!

    I'm a bit jealous of Evelyn, my big sister, who had the privilege to attend your wedding ;-) !!!

    I'm very happy for both of you ! And the setting was gorgeous ! But what will George Washington think of your choice, lol, a cherry tree ... ;-)

    Bises to the "mariés" ! I love you, les mecs ;-)

    Mary

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  41. Congratulations to you both. The pictures and the story warm my heart. No, this is not a possibility that I think crossed any of our minds all those years ago when we started lives together. This makes me grateful and hopeful. Wishing you both so many more years of happiness together.

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  42. Congratulations Ken & Walt!I read your blogs everyday.Of course I enjoy all your pics but love the beautiful one of you guys w/Lewis.I live in the South Bay (Morgan Hill)& sent your post to my atty.She & her partner live in San Juan Bautista & she commutes to her office in SF everyday.I know Nancy & Teresa will enjoy reading your blog as much as I do.

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  43. Congratulations to you both. I hope your life ahead is filled woth love and laughter, and you enjoy e numerous celebrations back in France with your friends.

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  44. What a heart-warming event! Congratulations!

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  45. Now that I've wiped the tears from my eyes, I can add my congratulations on your wonderful news! Just terrific.

    My best wishes to you and Walt for lots of joy and many more years together.

    Donna in SF

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  46. What happy news! Are you sure you have known each other long enough?....John and I are very excited to hear this news! This calls for extra special bubbly next we see you! Congratulations!! Love, Candy and John and Chaucer

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  47. I can't answer all your comments but I've read them all. You are all so loyal and thoughtful. We head back to France today, and we'll all stay in touch, right?

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  48. Sincere congratulations to you both! And a "happy ever after". May all be well for you both!

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  49. This is so sudden! (old Perry Como joke).
    Congratulations!

    Another reason to love New York!

    Best wishes from the two of us to the two of you.

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  50. Congratulations to you and Walt! I hope to see photos of your wedding in France soon.

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  51. Congratulations to you both. What a great way to tie the knot, so lovely and simple (apart from all that paperwork of course). Wishing you many happy years together.
    Veronica
    UK

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  52. Your post brought tears to my eyes. Many blessings and much happiness to you both.
    Barb in Minnesota

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  53. Mazel tov again. How wonderful that you're finally able to start married life, no matter how long the engagement was. Love to you both!

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  54. Many happy returns, you guys, from all the way up here in Bellingham, Washington. We'll have to explain the whole process to Casey.

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  55. Love you both and we're so happy for you here in California (where you could have gotten married a few years ago but now you can't, unfortunately). xoxo

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  56. I have to add my congratulations as well! I'm so happy for you both, and wish you many, many more years of happiness together.

    Linda in Charleston,SC

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  57. Thrilled to hear your news. Congratulations to you both! Best wishes from Australia.

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  58. Warmest congratulations and huge hugs to you both! Bill and I are so happy for you!!

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  59. Best wishes to you both from me and Alex...

    I have to say that I just got done commented to you both on Walt's blog then came over here to see what you had posted and honestly.. I've got tears running down my cheeks now.. I'm just sooo happy for the both of you.. and just to read the story of how you weren't sure you had all the proper documents.. made me feel sooo happy that in the end, everything worked in your favour and you are now both a happily "married" couple.. in addition to being the HAPPY COUPLE (to me married without the actual paperwork) because your 'couple' has lasted longer than most marriages that I know of..
    It's just soo wonderful to know you both and to see how happy you are together...
    The tears are still rolling...

    All of our best and we hope to come visit sometime soon- maybe in June or so.. when the weather is better...

    Hugs,
    Leesa et Alex

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  60. I couldn't be more delighted for you, and as the 2nd wife of a Frenchman with 2 children from his previous marriage, I know more than I ever wanted to about the succession laws of France.

    I wish you the very best in getting equally well- and duly-married in France in the near future!

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  61. Jill Holdaway22 May, 2012 04:53

    Much love to you both from Ben and I. Here's to enduring love.

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  62. Congrats! Ken to both you and Walt. I am so happy for you both. I sure hope the new President makes legalizing marriage for ALL top priority. As it should be.
    I am thrilled to hear your news!
    Best Wishes,
    Kim

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  63. I am catching up with your blog this morning. Of course I knew about your wedding through Facebook and am delighted to hear that Walt has made an honest man of you (or is it the opposite?) after thirty or more years. I am sure there will soon be another ceremony in France.
    Love and congratulations to the two of you!

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  64. Belated warm congratulations from a lurker who loves your blog!!!!!!

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  65. Re-reading your post all these months later still makes me misty-eyed. Hope you always remain as happy as you were that day.

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