Clay and Jonathan got married in Copenhagen

Married in Copenhagen

When British Jonathan (right) and American Clay (left) met back in the summer of 2012 in a gay bar in Charleston, South Carolina, none of them had any idea that a little over a year later they would not just register as partners, but marry – let alone in Copenhagen. 11 November 2013, they tied the knot at Frederiksberg Town Hall in the Danish capital.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013

In the summer of 2012, British Jonathan, now 34 years old, went to Charleston in the American state South Carolina for a family wedding. While waiting for a second cousin arriving on a bus, he had a drink outside a gay bar around the corner from the bus central. That is where he first lay eyes on Clay.

"I had no intention of going out or meeting anyone. I wasn't looking for a long distance relationship, but then I saw him," says Jonathan with a smile.

Clay, now 26, was living in Texas at the time and was only back home in South Carolina for his sister's 21st birthday, when he decided to go to the local gay bar for a drink. There, Jonathan caught his attention. After some time the two started talking, and later that night they shared their first kiss of many.

Put a ring on it

The couple kept in touch, and Jonathan visited Clay again during the autumn. Last December, Clay came over to Scotland to celebrate Hogmanay, the Scottish New Year's Eve.

"I didn't even have a passport before then. I had never been outside the United States," says Clay.

Two months later, Jonathan went to visit Clay in San Antonio in Texas. With him, he had a ring.

Every Texas girl's dream

"I thought a lot about how to pop the question. We were in this bar, where you could write messages or proposals on a mirror. We were in Texas, so I just wrote Jonathan loves Clay. When we were walking home, we passed the Alamo [a historic fortress]. It seemed like the right moment, so then I proposed," says Jonathan.

"Every Texas girl would just die to be proposed to in front of the Alamo," laughs Clay, who proposed back to Jonathan the next day. Both families are accepting of their sons' partner, and in May 2013, Clay moved to Edinburgh on a six months' visa to be with Jonathan.

Now that the six months are up, Clay was destined to have to go back to America. In order for Clay and Jonathan to stay together, they had to register for civil partnership, and meet a £18,600 minimum earnings requirement. Even then, Clay would have to go back to America to apply for citizenship. The whole ordeal turned out to be a lot more complicated than first anticipated. Time was running out.

"There were so many different kinds of visas, and we didn't fit into any of them. Then we read this article about free movement for EU citizens and their non-EU family members," says Jonathan.

"Why don't you come and get married in Copenhagen?"

The EU law meant that if they married or registered as partners, and left the UK to work in another EU country for three months, then Jonathan's status as a European citizen would take priority over his status as a UK citizen, and he would automatically be able to move his new spouse, Clay, from outside Europe into the UK.

During the World Outgames in the Belgium city of Antwerp, the couple met some friends from Denmark.

"Why don't you come and get married in Copenhagen?" They asked.

"It means a lot to us that we are properly married, not just registered partners"

In the beginning of November 2013, they arrived in Copenhagen with the purpose of getting married.

"They were very friendly and helpful at the Town Hall. They knew it was a gay marriage, and they explained to us what papers we needed. It only took five days to go through from when we handed in the papers," says Jonathan.

"Practically, being married means that we can stay together now, and it means a lot to us that we are properly married, not just registered partners. It's equal," says Clay and Jonathan before going for a traditional Danish lunch at gay-friendly Restaurant Kronborg in Copenhagen.

"People are very open and speak incredibly good English"

The newlyweds have plans to spend a couple of more days in Copenhagen, before heading to France to live for three months.

"We want to go have our picture taken by the statue of The Little Mermaid. I remember her from my childhood. My family had a little stone figure of her at home, so we're excited to see her," Jonathan says while Clay nods.

"Copenhagen is a really beautiful and architectural city. People are very open and speak incredibly good English. The city is so old, that it is ridiculous. We went to the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotheque yesterday, and some of the works in there are from before 2,000 BC. It really messes with your head," says Clay.

Will the happy couple ever come back to Copenhagen?

Yes, I think so. We would like to come back for the Eurovision Song Contest in May 2014, but Clay doesn't really know the Eurovision yet," laughs Jonathan.

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LGBT facts

The National Association for Gays and Lesbians (LGBT Denmark) was founded by Axel Axgil in 1948 as the first of its kind in the world.

In 1989 Denmark was the first country in the world to recognise registered partnerships for same-sex couples.

In 2009 it became possible for registered gay couples to adopt children.

In 2012 it became possible for same-sex couples to be married in church or at city hall.

Did you know?

Copenhagen is home to one of Europe’s oldest gay bars, Centralhjørnet from 1917, which openly became a gay bar in 1950’s.

In 2009 Copenhagen hosted World Outgames.

Danes Eigil and Axel Axgil were the first couple in the world to enter into a registered same-sex partnership in 1989 after 40 years of being engaged.

Denmark’s Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt and Lord Mayor of Copenhagen Frank Jensen participated in Copenhagen Pride parade in 2012, walking the streets with a rainbow flag in their hands.

Free gay downloads

Download the free gay map of Copenhagen or pick up a copy inside Copenhagen Visitor Centre. Please ask at the front desk for the map.

Download the free GAY CPH app

Download free Copenhagen Gay Guide app

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