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Same-sex civil partnerships in the UK

2005-DEC: The first civil partnerships. Reactions

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This essay is continued from a previous essay

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Same-sex couples enter into civil partnerships:

The very first same-sex couple to enter into a civil partnership did so in very early 2005-DEC. This happened two weeks before the legislation came into force. They were given special permission because one of the spouses was terminally ill.

On Monday, 2005-DEC-19, Grainne Close and Shannon Sickles, a lesbian couple in Northern Ireland, were the second same-sex couple to enter into a civil partnership in the UK. They had become engaged in New York City in 2003 and "civil partnershipped" in Belfast on morning of the first day that the law became effective. Arriving at Belfast City Hall, Ms. Close said "This is for all the people who went before us..." Nick Thatcher of BBC News in Belfast wrote: "Ms. Sickles...finished her partner's sentence like any true 'married' couple, saying: '...and all the people who would like to come after us'." One of the guests, Rita Wild, said: "It was really lovely. It was very joyful. There was lots of cheering, lots of clapping, lots of singing....It's momentous and we'll be remembering this day. It will be taught in children's history lessons in the future."

The Reverend Doctor Ian Brown, of the Free Presbyterian Church was one of the demonstrators protesting the ceremony. He said: "The fact of the matter is that God does not endorse this, shall never endorse this and we are standing for the word of God and for the protection of our children." It is unclear what he meant by that statement. He may be fearing that if the government allows loving committed same-sex couples to enter into civil partnership that many will become abusive pedophiles. It is unclear why a civil partnershipped person would be more likely to abuse children than a single person. Nearby, a giant sign said: ""Repent ye therefore, and be converted." It is not clear whether the sign refers to religious conversion or to change in the couple's sexual orientation. One counter-demonstrator with a sense of humor held as placard stating: "The Earth is flat." Two gay couples were subsequently "civil partnershipped" that day. "1

On Wednesday, DEC-21, three couples simultaneously signed their partnership documents at 08:00 hrs in the Brighton and Hove Register Office. They were:

  • the Reverend Debbie Gaston and her partner of 16 years Elaine Gaston;
  • Gino Meriano and Mike Ullett, who have been together for seven years; and
  • Roger Lewis and his partner of 14 years, Keith Willmott-Goodall."

Elaine Gaston said that the ceremony: "...says to the world this is what I want to do, this is who I am, and this is who I'm in love with." Her spouse, Debbie Gaston added: "For 16 years we haven't had the opportunity to do something that all our friends and family have been able to do." The superintendent registrar, Linda Holm, said: "This morning was an amazing experience for me and my colleagues as well as for the couples. I was so proud to be part of this momentous occasion and to be able to witness three couples make their partnerships official." By the end of the day, 14 more same-sex couples were "partnershipped."  An additional 198 were expected before the end of December. By the end of 2005, Brighton had over 500 bookings for same-sex ceremonies in 2006. 2

Also on DEC-21, Philip Main and David Girvan, both priests of the Druid faith were "partnershipped" in Wrexham, Wales. The date was of particular significance to them because it was the Winter Solstice. Main said:

"It means that we're legally recognised as a couple together, that should anything happen to either of us we have that weight of the law behind us....It's the mid Winter solstice, it's the day when we recognize that the light comes back to the land, the days start getting longer and the summer sun starts arriving. It's a special day for us anyway and to have special people around us is wonderful. Since we registered our intent, life has been hectic as usual, we're both involved in pantomime and we've had performances every night as we will tonight."

His spouse, David Girvan, said:

"For me it's about being relaxed....as much as people have assumed we were together, now we're together officially and it's a grand feeling, a lovely, warm feeling."

Perhaps the most famous couple to be "partnershipped" was Sir Elton John and his Canadian partner of 11 years, David Furnish. Hundreds of adoring fans and onlookers were present outside the Guildhall in Windsor. They were exceeded in number only by the crowds who watched the marriage of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles in April at the same location. Caroline Briggs of the BBC News wrote: "There will be many civil partnership ceremonies in the months and years to come - but Sir Elton's big day will be a hard act to follow." 3

By the end of DEC-22, an estimated 687 couples were "partnershipped." The government estimates that 4,500 couples will be "partnered" in the first year. 4

The term "entered into a civil partnershipped" is an awkward one. The media generally used other terms, like wed, hitched, tied the knot, partnered, and sometimes "wedding," "gay wedding,""pink wedding," "wed," or "marry" in quotation marks.

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Reactions to the civil partnerships:

bullet Tony Blair, the Prime Minister of the UK called the new civil partnerships "a modern progressive step" of which he was proud.

bullet Meg Munn, the UK's deputy equality minister said that the law was "another step along the road of equality." She told the BBC:

"This is an important piece of legislation that gives legal recognition to relationships which until now were invisible in the eyes of the law. It accords people in same-sex relationships the same sort of rights and responsibilities that are available to married couples. We know there are people who have been together maybe 40 years and have been waiting for the chance to do this kind of thing, because of the important differences it makes to their lives. They have the same concerns as married couples - tenancy, ownership, pensions and inheritance." 4

bullet Stephen Green, the national director of Christian Voice, warned that God will bring punishment on the land:

"Ordinary people will be revolted by the sight of these couples embracing and the recognition in our law of what the Bible describes as an abomination and 'vile affection' will bring judgment on our land from the same Almighty God who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah."

By the time of the most recent update to this essay in mid 2013, almost eight years have passed without any obvious punishment on the land by God.

bullet The Most Rev Peter Smith, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cardiff, pointed out that all same-sex couples are like infertile opposite-sex couples. He said:

"Civil partnership is not based on natural complementarity of male and female and the natural purpose of sexual union cannot be achieved by same-sex partnerships; nor can a same-sex couple co-operate with God to create new life."

However, same-sex couples can cooperate with the state to adopt children. Also, female same-sex couples can cooperate with a fertility clinic to conceive and bear children.

In an interview by the BBC, he said:

"What the Government should do in terms of public policy is support marriage rather than undermine it, To put beside marriage an alternative or what appears to be a perfectly approved legal alternative lifestyle I think does not help the institution of marriage at all."  5

bullet Julie Thomas Anderson and Adele Rees of Gorseinon, Wales made arrangements to be "partnered" on 2005-DEC-21. Ms Rees said:

"We had the commitment ceremony but we wanted something that was legally-binding. It's been a long-time coming - there were always going to be objections. It will still not be religious, but I would not want a religious ceremony anyway -- although I think some (same sex-couples) would like that."

bullet The Bishops of the Church of England -- which is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion -- have ruled that:

bullet Priests can enter civil partnerships as long as they promise to remain celibate.

bullet Priests may not conduct rituals to bless same-sex partnerships.
bullet Sir Antony Sher, an actor, and his long-term partner, Greg Doran were "partnershipped." Sir Antony said: "It is wonderful. It is a little bit of history being made. I feel very proud that this is happening in this country and that we can be part of the very first group to have it done." 6

bullet Alan Wardle, spokesperson for the gay-positive group Stonewall, said:

"Our view is that civil partnerships are transformative for the lives of individual couples and their rights, but also for society more generally. Society now legally recognizes gay relationships for the first time. It's a big day but 21 December, when the first partnerships take place [in England and Wales], will be even bigger because that will see gay and lesbian people removing discrimination."

bullet Dr Alison Parken, director of Stonewall Cymru in Wales said:

"Up until now, some same sex couples, if a partner dies, they haven't had the right to claim the body and take care of funeral arrangements. They have not been able to pass over survivor benefits whether from the state pension or occupational pension so there's a poverty issue there for a surviving partner." 5

bullet

Don Horrocks of the Evangelical Alliance, a conservative Protestant group, said:

"If you transport something unique, like marriage, into a different context, there's always a cost. And the cost here is in terms of reduction of marriage and the undermining of it." 6

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References:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Nick Thatcher, "Out of the ceremony, into history," BBC News, 2005-DEC-19, at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/
  2. "Couples tie knot in 'gay capital'," BBC News, 2005-DEC-21, at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/
  3. Caroline Briggs, "Sir Elton celebrates his big day," BBC News, 2005-DEC-21, at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/
  4. Dominic Casciani, "Q&A: Civil Partnership," BBC, 2005-DEC-05, at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/
  5. "Cleric attacks 'gay weddings' law," BBC, 2005-DEC-04, at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/
  6. Jonathan Petre, "Gay Pride or Unholy Alliance?" The Telegraph, 2005-DEC-22, at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/

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Copyright © 2005 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2014-MAR-12
Author: B.A. Robinson

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