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."
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.
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
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