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    First Published: June 2003
       This is an OutUK Archive Item and so some of the links and information may be out of date.
At long last gay couples in England and Wales will get the same legal rights as heterosexual married couples under plans outlined by the government.
These will include pension and property entitlements if couples register their commitment in a civil ceremony. We'll finally get next-of-kin rights in hospitals, be able to benefit from a dead partner's pension and be exempt from inheritance tax on our own home.
The plans don't mean that we'll be entitled to a "marriage" ceremony, but we will be able to sign an official document at a register office in front of the registrar and two witnesses. Gay rights campaign group Stonewall's Chief Executive Ben Summerskill is welcoming the proposals : "We're delighted that this long overdue step is now being taken by the government. Hundreds of thousands of lesbians and gay men are in stable loving relationships for much of their lives but still don't have the right to do something as simple as visit each other in hospital or register the death of their loved one.

"We're very pleased that the Government is taking sensible steps to address this injustice. It's not just social status that matters but also things as simple as the right to share a partner's pension something available to every heterosexual.

"We hope that parliamentary time will be made as soon as possible to implement partnership registration. Every day that people can't register their partnership is a day that some of them face real personal tragedy because of a historic inequality."

The proposals have been unveiled unveiled by Equality Minister Jacqui Smith who says "Civil Partnership registration would underline the inherent value of committed same-sex relationships. It would support stable families and show that we really value the diversity of the society we live in. It would open the way to respect, recognition and justice for those who have been denied it too long."

Heterophobic

Inevitably they haven't met with universal approval. Human Rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has described them as unjust and unimaginative. "It is divisive, heterophobic and discriminatory to exclude unmarried heterosexual couples...It is a pity the government has opted for an unimaginative, watered down version of marriage, instead of having the foresight to devise an entirely new, modern legal framework for partnership recognition." Liberal Democrat equality spokesman Evan Harris also criticised the government for ignoring unmarried heterosexual partners while welcoming the recognition for same sex couples.

Registration

If these proposals get passed by Parliament and enshrined into law what will these plans mean to you? Civil Partnership registration in England and Wales would be delivered by your local Register Office. On the day of registration, each member of the couple would sign the register in the presence of the registration officer and two witnesses. Couples would not be able to register if they were in an existing civil partnership or marriage. There would be a formal, court-based process for dissolution of a Civil Partnership.

Nine other countries in the European Union already have provision for recognising those in committed same-sex partnerships and similar civil partnership registration has become a well-established as a way of providing legal recognition for same-sex couples.

The DTI is inviting all members of the lesbian, gay and bisexual communities to respond with their views. The consultation document is available online.

Partnership Campaign History As Reported By OutUK:
The Relationships (Civil Registration) Bill
London Partnership Register Set Up
First Gay Weddings in Holland

 

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