ONE of the first gay couples in Dundalk to officially tie the knot under new laws have said it felt like the right thing to do after they fell in love.

ONE of the first gay couples in Dundalk to officially tie the knot under new laws have said it felt like the right thing to do after they fell in love.

Raymond Marmion (39) and Jong Pasion (36) from Nicholas Street, Dundalk formalised their committment to one another in a civil partnership ceremony in Newry just two months ago.

“We met in the North about a year and a half ago and are really happy together. Before Jong, for years I’d always said I wouldn’t do it but I changed my mind after meeting him,” said Raymond.

“It was a mutual decision. We just talked about it and decided to go for it. There was no getting down on one knee or anything like that.”

The couple decided to hold the ceremony in a registry office in Newry because they felt it was more “straightforward” because civil partnership is new in the South. Civil partnerships were legalised on January 1 and the first ceremony did not take place until April because three months notice is needed to register the union.

When Raymond and Jong decided to go ahead with a civil partnership, they first contacted local support group Dundalk Outcomers for advice on the process.

“It seemed daunting at first but it’s actually really straightforward. We did consider having the ceremony in the South but when I went to the registration office there was very little privacy,” said Raymond.

“We had to sit with everyone who was registering births, marriages and deaths and had to go up to a little hatch and were asked a lot of personal questions in front of everyone else.

“When we went to Newry, there was more privacy. We were invited into a private room and the whole thing just seemed more relaxed, probably because civil partnership has been legal there for five years.”

Raymond added: “The registrar made us feel really at ease; she even invited us to her own wedding which we’ve just attended. Once we had the registry office booked we looked for a venue and settled on Innisfree House on the Carrick Road.

“We wanted somewhere small and intimate, somewhere suitable for our 20 guests. It was just perfect. I couldn’t praise Innisfree House enough. We also ordered flowers and wedding rings. The florist was so excited for us.

“I hadn’t mentioned it to anyone at work but when I got back everyone was so nice about it and offered their congratulations.”

Despite the Civil Partnership Act being welcomed by many gay rights groups, others believe the legislation neglects to deal with some key issues relating to parental rights. However, Raymond said he feels “quite happy” with civil partnership.

“The only thing that was missing from the ceremony was the religious aspect. I am a Catholic and attend mass but I didn’t miss the religious aspect on the day,” said Raymond.

“I feel as though I am married and have the exact same rights in terms of welfare and tax. I don’t refer to Jong as my husband; we prefer to use the word partner and we are happy with that.

“We didn’t have a honeymoon but we are going to the Philippines - where Jong is from originally - in November for a month. There’s an element of change of course since the ceremony but it’s great. I’ve no regrets and Jong is still smiling.”