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Same-sex civil partnerships & marriages in the UK

2003 & 2004: Law introduced & passed.
Reactions. "Pink Wedding Waiting List"

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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.

bullet 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 too long."
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.

bullet 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. He said:
"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.

bullet 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.

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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:

bullet Social security, bereavement, injury and pension benefits.

bullet Tenancy rights.

bullet Possibility of adoption.

bullet Full recognition in life assurance policies.

bullet Responsibility to provide reasonable maintenance for partners and children.

bullet Same tax treatment as married couples, including exemptions from inheritance tax on homes.

bullet Visiting rights in hospitals.

bullet The obligation to contribute financially to their relationship and children.

bullet Parental responsibility for the children of their partner.

bullet The ability to dissolve the partnership via a divorce procedure.

bullet Ability to register the death of a partner and make decisions concerning burial.

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 family.

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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
bullet 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

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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

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This topic continues in the next essay

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

  1. "Gay couples to get joint rights," BBC News, 2005-MAR-31, at:
  2. "City to pioneer 'gay marriages'," BBC News, 2005-MAR-15, at:
  3. "Gay wedding waiting list launched," BBC News, 2004-JUL-09, at:

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Copyright © 2003 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2003-JUL-1
Latest update: 2010-OCT-22
Author: B.A. Robinson

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