Gay 'partnerships' proposed to get legal recognition

Same-sex partners could soon have similar legal rights and entitlements as heterosexual couples, under proposals currently being considered by the government.

At the moment, same-sex couples have no way of having their relationships legally recognised. Under the proposals, couples would be able to make a formal, legal commitment to each other by registering a "partnership".

Womans rights minister Jacqui Smith said the move was necessary as same-sex couples face a "range of humiliating, distressing and unnecessary problems" because of a lack of legal recognition.

"Thousands of people are in long-term, stable, same-sex relationships. These are ordinary couples, living their lives and planning their futures together. They are committed to each other in all areas of their joint lives - but their relationships are invisible in the eyes of the law," she said.

"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."

Couples in a civil partnership would be able to claim a number of rights, such as: joint state pension benefits; ability to gain parental responsibility for each other's children; right to register the death of a partner; eligibility for bereavement benefits; compensation for fatal accidents or criminal injuries; and tenancy succession rights.

Civil Partnership registration in England and Wales would be delivered by the local registration service. On the day of registration, each member of the couple would sign the register in the presence of the registration officer and two witnesses. Couples would not be able to register if they were in an existing civil partnership or marriage.

There would also be a formal, court-based process for dissolution of a Civil Partnership.

Nine other countries in the EU already have provision for recognising those in committed same-sex partnerships.

The consultation period on Civil Partnership will close on September 30 2003.


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