From partnerships and pensions to employment and education: LGB lobbying and
campaigning group Stonewall invited OutUK's Adrian Gillan to a special
briefing to outline their work for the next twelve months.
"We still have a big fight on our hands," braces Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill (right)
for the two month haul ahead to hopefully convert the Lords-stalled Civil Partnership Bill
"But to achieve this would mark a real leap forward for the LGB community and
how we are perceived by wider society."
Complacency and poor turn-out by pro-gay Labour and Lib Dem peers in June allowed the
Upper House to delay the Bill under the guise of an amendment, extending its scope
beyond just same-sex couples, to include family members: two older siblings co-habiting,
say, or a son looking after his mother.
However, Stonewall Parliamentary Director Alan Wardle is adamant this was simply
a cunning homophobic diversion tactic to give the government and LGB community
a bloody nose: "There is definitely a need to help family members but this Bill
is not the right tool. Such an issue is complex and needs its own Bill. A range
of relevant organisations, from Carers UK to Help the Aged, back us on this."
Looking ahead now, there is a six week period between when the Civil Partnership Bill
comes back to the Commons in early October and its hoped-for assent into law via the
Queen's Speech on 23rd November. As before, Stonewall does not anticipate many hurdles
at the Commons stages; however, this time, it is determined to get those slacking
Labour & Lib Dem peers out to vote. Should things go to plan, there would then
be a twelve month implementation period post-assent. So, realistically, it would
not be until December 2005 that LGBs could sign on the dotted line and enjoy full
Moreover, though the Bill makes no specific reference to "next of kin" - not a legal
concept - Stonewall is convinced that hospitals and executors of wills will have a
tough case to answer once passed into Law, should they discriminate against same-sex
civil partners in favour of, say, other family members. Indeed, assures
Summerskill: "In every respect except one - pensions - we have succeeded in securing
legal equivalence with marriage in terms of rights, entitlements and
responsibilities - including divorce."
Most private sector pension funds voluntarily support same-sex partner "survivor rights"
as do the majority of the eighty-odd "Stonewall Diversity Champion" employers, drawn
from both public and private sectors. Apart from this being the right thing to do,
many employers are now seeing it as the wise thing to do since keen not to lose or
deter potential LGB talent in their workforce.
Naturally a big employer in the
public sector themselves, the government resisted parity on pensions in the Civil
Partnership Bill. However, warns Summerskill: "If the government don't listen to
us over survivor pensions for LGBs in the public sector, then we may - subject
to legal advice, and it would be a sad day - need to take the issue to the
European Court of Human Rights."
Employment & Education
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