Embassy of France, Washington, DC
© 2005 Thierry Caro, used under GNU Free
Documentation License, Version 1.2
I realized this morning that I haven’t updated you on our efforts to get our DC marriage recognized here in France. Back on May 17, the Constitutional Council (the French equivalent of the U.S. Supreme Court) ruled that France’s newly adopted law opening marriage to same-sex couples was constitutional. The big question for us, of course, was how to get the French government to recognize the validity of our marriage performed in Washington almost three years earlier. We assumed at the time that we wouldn’t have to get remarried in France, but we had no earthly idea how to start the administrative process with the French authorities. SInce then, I’m happy to report, we’ve made headway.
It took us a few weeks to get our bearings, but Michel learned that we had to contact the French Consulate in Washington since we were married there. After downloading all the relevant information from their site, it seemed we just needed to follow the normal procedure for any couple married abroad, which consists of sending:
✔ a letter from the French national (that would be Michel)
✔ an official copy of the marriage license
✔ an official copy of the French national’s birth certificate
✔ a copy of his national identity card
✔ an official copy of the birth certificate of the foreign spouse (that would be me)
✔ a copy of his form of identification, and
✔ a self-addressed postage-paid envelope.
We originally planned to collect all the documents in France and I would take them with me to the U.S. and dispatch them using Fed-Ex during my impending visit. As usual, though, Michel was having difficulty getting a copy of his birth certificate by mail, so that plan fell through. He promised to go to the city hall in Montreuil to get a copy while I was away and, to make me feel better, he called the Consulate to confirm the process and make sure we were on the right track.
The first person Michel spoke with was neither very helpful nor very polite, so much so that Michel was quite perturbed after getting off the phone. I, on the other hand, wasn’t surprised in the least, having spent far too much time dealing with French bureaucrats at the prefecture. The good news, though, is that when Michel called back later
as ordered like a dog as instructed, he spoke with a different consular official who was not only polite and professional, but even friendly. She confirmed that we should indeed follow the normal procedure on the website and, if everything in our file was in order, our marriage would be transcribed in the civil registry of the French Republic and we’d get our livret de famille (“family register“) by mail. So, off I went to the U.S. for two weeks, feeling much better about the road ahead …
After getting back to France, Michel and I assembled our file, including Michel’s birth certificate he’d hunted down during my absence. On the Monday following my return, the two of us trekked over to the Post Office and mailed our official request to have our DC marriage transcribed in the French civil registry. All that was left to do then was to wait …
After two weeks and no registered mail return receipt, Michel called the Consulate Monday evening to confirm that our file was there and that they didn’t need anything else from us. Our friendly consular official answered our call and looked us up. To our collective relief, she confirmed that our file was there and that it was complete. We had to be patient with the process, though, she told us. Since she’s the only person working in the department handling these kinds of requests, we shouldn’t expect our livret de famille before the end of August, she said.
Now, I’ll be honest here: there was a time not so long ago when I would’ve balked at that timeline, but I didn’t on Monday. Maybe dealing with the slow machine of immigration bureaucracy these last three years has helped me attain the virtue of patience that has always been so lacking in my character. All I can say at this point is:
Dear Madame Consular Official in Washington, as long as you have all the paperwork you need, I’m quite content to sit back and wait. And if I get that livret de famille before September, I promise to apologize for every bad thing I’ve ever said about French bureaucracy … and there’s been a lot!
P.S. — Read what happened next!
© 2013 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved