Same-sex couple's legal wedding day anger as Leeds register office staff twice ask 'where is the bride?'

A same-sex couple were left angry and upset on their legal wedding day after twice being asked 'where is the bride?' by register office staff at Leeds Civic Hall.

By Mark Lavery
Friday, 5th November 2021, 5:12 pm
Updated Friday, 5th November 2021, 10:41 pm

Nima and Liam Lawlor-Baniamer of Meanwood said the experience soured their day and said it is "embarrassing" that it happened at an official wedding venue in 2021.

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Leeds City Council has apologised to the couple and have said all register office staff will receive updated diversity and inclusion training.

Liam (left) and Nima Lawlor-Baniamer pictured outside their home in Meanwood Photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Nima and Liam, both 32, had a wedding ceremony attended by 120 family and friends at a venue in North Yorkshire on Saturday September 18.

That ceremony had been conducted by a celebrant and the couple had arranged to have their marriage legally recognised at a short ceremony at Leeds Civic Hall on Tuesday September 21.

Both men wore their wedding suits and they turned up at the door at Leeds Civic Hall with Liam's parents.

The couple, who have been together for eight-and-a-half years, were shocked when a member of council staff at the door asked them where the bride was.

Liam (left) and Nima Lawlor-Baniamer pictured at their wedding ceremony a venue in North Yorkshire on Saturday September 18.

Nima said: "This initially took us aback because we would never expect that this would be directed to a same-sex couple by anybody at a wedding venue in 2021."

Liam said: "I was angry. I didn't shout or anything, but I was visibly annoyed. She had made the assumption that there must be a bride, but it's 2021.

"She realised instantly she had made a mistake and apologised straight away."

Liam said he asked the woman not to make that mistake in future.

Nima (left) and Liam Lawlor-Baniamer pictured at Leeds Civic Hall on their legal wedding day.

Once inside the building the couple were greeted by a male registrar who asked 'where is the bride?'

Liam said: "I said 'are you kidding me?' I got really annoyed and even more angry. I just thought 'what kind of institution is this?'

"His response immediately was 'well we only get first names on our piece of paper.'

"He has seen our names, Liam and Nima, and he made the assumption that Nima must be a woman.

"The only two staff members we have spoken to asked us this question. It's just embarrassing for an official organisation."

Nima said his first name is a traditional men's Iranian name. "We can understand why when combined with a Liam the initial assumption may be to assume that Nima must be a woman’s name," he said. "But, this absolutely should not be made by officials in 2021."

Nima said: "Enraged and feeling awfully awkward, we then had to legally get married by somebody who had just insulted us greatly.

"It was one of the worst and embarrassing experiences we have gone through as a couple.

"As residents of Leeds, we expect so much more from our local government.

"The irony is that during the entire preparation of our non-legal ceremony on the Saturday, we had never encountered a single venue, supplier or individual making this mistake.

"We expected more from Leeds Civic Hall and they should feel utterly ashamed and disgusted about this.

"This wasn’t our wedding day', but if it had been - which I can imagine it is for thousands of same-sex couples every year - it would have been truly devastating.

"We really hope Leeds Civic Hall does better in the future.

"The organisation as a whole needs to conduct an investigation into how this was even allowed to happen.

"Staff training, for both the door staff and the registrars, should have ensured no such incident could ever have occurred."

A Leeds City Council spokesperson, said: “We have spoken to the couple concerned and unreservedly apologised for any distress caused.

" This shouldn’t happen to anyone, especially on their wedding day.

"We are committed as a council that all our services reflect the diverse city we serve and are fully inclusive and we will look to ensure all members of staff in the register office receive updated diversity and inclusion training.”

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