Same-sex civil partnerships & marriages in the UK
2003 & 2004: Law introduced & passed.
Reactions. "Pink Wedding Waiting List"
Responses to the government paper:
The BBC reported in 2005-MAR that the similarity of civil partnerships to
opposite-sex civil marriage:
"...has angered some Christian groups, who argue
marriage is being undermined, but some gay rights groups say they do not go
far enough. There are also complaints that same-sex couples are now getting
rights not available to unmarried heterosexual couples." 1 However, in reality, same-sex, civil partnershipped couples will obtain rights and privileges exactly equivalent to marriage, except on very important exclusion: recognition that their union is an actual marriage.
The ruling Labour party's minister for women and equality, Jacqui Smith,
called for public consultations on the proposals. She described them as an
attempt to end the injustice that prevents same-sex couples from receiving
the social benefits and legal protections given to married couples. She said:
"This is not about being 'PC' [politically correct], but about bringing law and
practice into line with the reality of people's lives. Thousands of people are
in long-term, stable, same-sex relationships....They are committed to each other
in all areas of their joint lives, but their relationships are invisible in the
eyes of the law...Same-sex couples often face a range of humiliating,
distressing and unnecessary problems because of a lack of legal
recognition....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
Smith appeared on a number of news programs, and was repeatedly
asked why the government is not proposing to simply enlarge the marriage
laws to include same-sex couples, as had been done in some provinces in Canada by that time. She made vague references to "distinctive
traditions" and "certain connotations for people" that she
believes would not apply to same-sex couples.
Roger Smith, spokesperson for the Christian Action Research and
Education group argued that married couples have been given their
rights because they vow to have monogamous relationships and to procreate.
"Civil partnerships cannot satisfy those criteria. And, we say, therefore, let's look at the rights, case by case, but let's not just
take the whole package and give it to same-sex couples automatically on registration."
Smith may be unaware of the many same-sex couples who are monogamous, and who raise children, either through in vitro
fertilization or adoption. He has also denigrated those opposite-sex married couples who:
- Marry and remain childless because of medical
condition, age, or a conscious decision, or
- Marry and later adopt children.
Ben Summerskill, spokesperson for Stonewall, a gay and lesbian
rights group, said: "It's a hugely important day for lesbians and gay
men across Britain.
2004-MAR-30: Civic Partnership Bill (CPB) introduced to Parliament:
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported that "The
term 'gay marriage' is not used in the Bill, but the Civil Partnership
Registration Scheme seems to have been designed to be as close to a marriage
contract as possible." The bill would grant same-sex partners the same
rights and obligations as opposite-sex married couples have routinely
experienced, such as:
Social security, bereavement, injury and pension benefits.
Possibility of adoption.
Full recognition in life assurance policies.
Responsibility to provide reasonable maintenance for partners and
Same tax treatment as married couples, including exemptions from
inheritance tax on homes.
Visiting rights in hospitals.
The obligation to contribute financially to their relationship and
Parental responsibility for the children of their partner.
The ability to dissolve the partnership via a divorce procedure.
Ability to register the death of a partner and make decisions
Couples would qualify for a civil partnership if they are of the same
sex, meet a seven-day residential qualification, are over the age of 18, are not
related to each other within the prohibited degrees of relationship, are not
already married, and are not already in a civil partnership. There are special
provisions for persons who are 16 or 17 years of age, are housebound, or if
there is a compelling need to get civil partnershipped more quickly.
Same-sex couples would go to a government registry office, pay a fee, and
indicate their intent to register a civil partnership. Between fifteen days
and one year later, they could return to the office, pay a second fee, and
sign the civil partnership register in the presence of a registration
officer and two witnesses. If they wish, they could then proceed to a religious or secular
service of their choosing to celebrate their new status among friends and
Reactions to the bill:
Trevor Bentham, partner of the late Sir Nigel Hawthorne, said the new bill would dignify same-sex committed relationships in the eyes of
the law. He said:
"The public pat you on the back for having lived together for so long. But that isn't the point. The point is, in
[current] law, you have no status at all and that's quite cruel to actually have to face finally...We've all waited a long time for this.
It is in place in many countries already and has been for years."
Bentham and Hawthorne had lived together for 22 years. But under law, Bentham had no more rights than a roommate when his partner died. He
almost lost their home because of the necessity to pay inheritance tax -- a cost that would not have been applicable if the Civil Partnership
law was in place at the time. 1
Mike Judge, spokesperson for the Christian Institute said:
"We are opposed to the Bill in principle because it devalues marriage by giving all the legal privileges of married couples to same sex couples." "1
2004-JUL-09: Civil partnership list launched:
The city of Brighton and Hove in the south of England initiated an
informal "Pink Wedding Waiting List" for same sex couples to register
their intent to enter into civil partnerships. More than 100 same-sex
couples entered their names in a pink suede-covered book when it first
became available on 2004-MAY-09. Robert Lewes and Keith Willmott-Goodall were the first. As of 2005-MAR, the list has grown to more than 260
couples. In the past, Brighton and Howe have held more same-sex commitment
ceremonies than any other city in the UK. They want to continue this
reputation once civil partnerships become available by being the "pioneer
city for pink weddings."
Council chief executive David Panter said: "The waiting list is a way
for a same-sex couple to demonstrate both their commitment to each other and
their support for the Bill."
Council leader Ken Bodfish said: "The Bill means we will be able to
offer same-sex couples a ceremony that will help provide them with a secure
future in a loving relationship."
The city wants to be the first jurisdiction in the UK to register a
same-sex couple on 2005-DEC-05. By 2004-MAR, they had picked three couples
to be partnershipped one second after midnight on 2005-DEC-21. 2,3
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Gay couples to get joint rights," BBC News, 2005-MAR-31, at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/
- "City to pioneer 'gay marriages'," BBC News, 2005-MAR-15, at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/
- "Gay wedding waiting list launched," BBC News, 2004-JUL-09,
Copyright © 2003 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2003-JUL-1
Latest update: 2010-OCT-22
Author: B.A. Robinson