Gay MLA weds and takes husband’s name

It's now Spencer and Romi Chandra Herbert

BC’s legislative assembly will soon be referring to one of its members by his gay married name — at least on paper.

Vancouver-West End NDP MLA Spencer Herbert tied the knot with longtime partner Romi Chandra on March 27, and three days later, announced his intention to take Chandra’s last name, making him Spencer Chandra Herbert.

“Rather than us choosing one name we thought, as we’re both equal partners in our relationship, we would take each other’s names,” says Herbert. “I think it reflects who we are as a couple.”

Herbert will be Canada’s first MLA to take the married name of his gay partner. In 2003, Ted Nebbeling became Canada’s first serving cabinet minister to legally marry his gay partner, but he kept his own last name.

The BC NDP’s website already reflects Herbert’s name change, and he says it won’t be long before the Legislature follows suit.

“We’re working on that now,” he says.

“Within the House itself, you’re never called by your name, you’re always defined by your constituency… but in terms of the Legislative television channel Hansard, that should be happening very quickly.”

The legislative record will also reflect Herbert’s new name from now on, but it could take another six weeks before the change becomes legal.

“And of course you’ve got to change your passport and your credit cards and all those kinds of things,” he adds.

“But according to Facebook, anyways, it’s already official,” Herbert says with a laugh.

Apart from professional and sentimental reasons, Herbert says there are other benefits to taking his husband’s name.

“If we’re ever travelling or checking into a hotel, it’s [going to be] clear that we’re a couple together,” he says. “It’s a bit of a statement to make as well.”

Herbert’s husband, now Romi Chandra Herbert, agrees. He says the decision to adopt the name change reflects his and Spencer’s wishes and their refusal to dwell on “what would make others more comfortable.”

“We wanted people to acknowledge, respect and recognize our relationship,” Romi adds, noting “there are still places where queer relationships are looked down upon or ignored.”

Joining the couple’s names “shakes the family tree and causes pause for thought not only in the merging of families of different ethnicities, but also in recognizing the union between two people of the same sex,” says Romi, who also traces his roots to India and Fiji.

“There is a slight disruption on what ‘tradition’ or ‘normal’ might mean,” he says.

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