First Published: March 2004
       This is an OutUK Archive Item and so some of the links and information may be out of date.
Finally gay and lesbian couple are going to be given the chance to get similar legal rights to straight married couples under a new Civil Partnership Bill announced Wednesday morning.
For the first time in the UK, two gay men living together are to get proper legal recognition.

"This is a hugely symbolic step towards recognition of long-term gay partnerships," said campaign group Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill. "At last, we're seeing legislation which reflects the reality of twenty-first century life."

You won't have to live together for a certain length of time to be eligible for the rights and if the relationship breaks up, there would be formal court process for dissolving it, similar to a divorce. It means we'll now get a range of property rights, the same exemption as married couples on inheritance tax, social security, and also the ability to get parental responsibility for a partner's children.

But Stonewall's Ben Summerskill say he's disappointed that equal pension rights aren't in the proposed legislation "We're deeply saddened that ministers have not guaranteed equal pensions treatment," said Ben Summerskill. "Gay people make exactly the same pension contributions as heterosexuals and should be entitled to exactly the same rewards. We'll push for the Bill to be amended during its parliamentary passage to reflect this." Same-sex couples won't get equal state pension treatment until 2010, and private pension plan trustees won't be forced to treat same-sex partners the same as married couples unless amendments are made to the Bill as it goes through Parliament.

And a host of gay campaign groups say that by avoiding the term "marriage " and using "civil partnerships". both gay and straight couples are being treated by the government unequally. "What we reject is the principle that there should be separate laws for same- and opposite-sex couples. Lesbian and gay people should not be banned from marriage, and heterosexuals should not be barred from civil partnerships, said Brett Lock, a spokesperson for the new Coalition For Marraige Equality.

The Bill unveiled by Trade Minister Jacqui Smith still has to get through parliament, but Tory leader Michael Howard says he'll give his MPs a free vote on the issue, though some are expected to vote against civil partnerships.

Though the proposed legislation isn't perfect, Stonewall's Brett Lock say it's a massive advance in gay rights. "Finally, young gay people will grow up knowing that as adults they'll be entitled to exactly the same respect as everyone else. If it becomes law, the Bill will have huge cultural and social significance."

Partnership Campaign Feature Archive

The Relationships (Civil Registration) Bill
First London Registrations
London Partnership Register Set Up
First Gay Weddings in Holland


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