After years of cammpaigning Gay and Lesbian partners are being given
similar legal rights to straight married couples under a new Civil Partnership Bill.
The legislation finally passed its last Parliamentary hurdle in the House of Lords
by 251 votes to 136.
Ben Summerskill chief executive of campaign group Stonewall is euphoric:
“This is a historic step forward. Finally, the House of Lords has recognised that Britain is a tolerant twenty-first
century nation. We’re elated. Same-sex couples in long term relationships have waited
too long to enjoy the same rights and responsibilities as married people.”
A number of peers, led by Baroness O’Cathain and sponsored by the Christian Institute,
fought vigorously to introduce amendments to the Civil Partnership Bill which would have
made it unworkable. During report stage, opponents of the Bill in the Lords had denounced “unnatural sexual practices”.
Stonewall had lobbied strenuously for passage of the Civil Partnership Bill. At Third
Reading in the House of Commons on 9 November, MPs supported the Bill by 389 to 47.
Michael Howard was among MPs who voted for the Bill.
“We’re delighted that the House of Lords has rebuffed those peers who indulged in
offensive sneering at Britain’s lesbian and gay population,” said Ben Summerskill.
“For the first time, the front benches of all three major political parties have
backed equality for gay people. That represents a hugely positive change.”
The first registrations under the new Civil Partnership Act 2004 will not take
place until next autumn. Once the Act receives royal assent, it will require extensive
amendments to be made to the tax and benefits systems as well as training for registrars. It
will be possible to hold civil partnership ceremonies in exactly the same venues as
civil weddings, from registry offices to stately homes.
“We’re keen that the government seeks to implement the provisions of the new Act as
soon as possible,” said Ben Summerskill. “Thousands of people want urgently to register their relationships.”
The Relationships (Civil Registration) Bill
First London Registrations
London Partnership Register Set Up
First Gay Weddings in Holland