Same sex couples will be able to form a civil partnership and gain most of the rights and responsibilities of marriage in just over five weeks time.
We asked for your comments on the following:
Are you planning to register your relationship? Are you pleased with the extra financial rights you will gain?
Do you have any concerns?
And should the government grant these rights to other people who live together long-term, such as relatives, or carers and their dependents?
This debate is now closed. Here is a selection of your comments:
As a gay man living in New Zealand where the Civil Union has already been passed, I can only applaud governments for going down this route.
There have been negative reactions to the Civil Union, however as someone who is unable to marry and have the same rights as any "normal Christian", it is a blessing that my partner and I are now able to have the same rights as others.
I ask all people who are against this to ask themselves how they would feel if they were not allowed to see, or make a decision on behalf of their dying partner, of 20 or 30 years, because they are not perceived as a relative.
This is what homosexual couples have had to deal with. Ask yourself, Is that fair?
Nick, New Zealand
This law is incredibly biased. Why now only exclude relatives who live together without a sexual relationship of any kind? Any two people should be allowed the same rights if they register for them.
Children living with, and caring for, elderly parents, and siblings sharing lives... either all should get the same rights, or it should be kept just for the support of child-creating marriages.
James St George, London
I'm sorry to say it, but this is a mistake for it undermines the whole definition of marriage.
A very big step in the right direction, but if they had simply legalised true same-sex marriage there wouldn't be this debate about extending the rights to unmarried heterosexuals.
I hope the government soon realises this, as well as the fact that "civil partnerships" are still discriminatory and unequal, although admittedly miles less than the previous situation!
That said, my partner and I are still planning to register, though it won't be for a while, as the extras get expensive!
Something is better than nothing at this point.
I am so excited about the Civil Partnerships Act as a way for society to finally accept that many gay people live together in long, happy relationships, and will at long last have this recognised in law.
I am really tired of straight people banging on about having the same law apply to them.
At least they can marry, and they can do so in a registry office if they do not want to enter into a religious ceremony.
I am proud to be with my partner of five years and I am overjoyed that we will be able to be properly respected and recognised in the eyes of the law as of this year. Brilliant!
I have never been able to understand why couples who co-habit without a formal commitment say "We don't need a piece of paper to prove our love" then want the privileges accorded by law to prove their ownership of property when things go wrong.
With commitment, some marriages may fail. Without that commitment, all casual relationships fail. But no statistics are kept to show it.
This system of registered and unregistered marriages was tried in the Soviet Union. It failed miserably. There is only one institution that works, and it's called marriage.
Like many others I have lived happily in a heterosexual relationship for a long time - 22 years in my case - and like many others I resent the fact that it would be necessary to get married in order for my status to be recognised in law.
My partner and I choose not to marry, but we have brought up children, bought a house, work full-time, and contribute to society in exactly the same way as any married couple.
It's a pity society chooses to afford greater legal protection to people who might only have been married for a week.
Peter Thomas, London
Why should gay couples be able to enter civil partnerships when heterosexual couples - who do not wish to get married - cannot?
And should civil partnerships be made possible for other cohabiting couples of whatever sexual preference?
Indeed, why should civil partnerships be proscribed by whether there is a sexual relationship or not? What about people who live together for years as companions?
Come 5 December, the human rights law may need to be invoked to ensure others can enter civil partnerships!
Greta Jensen, Totnes
Denying tax benefits to couples who are not married is discriminatory and in breach of the European Convention on human rights.
All we need is a test case.
I should not have to conform to marriage, an institution I have no faith in.
We have been a couple for 30 years and have two children. Why can't we have the same rights as homosexuals?
For me as a gay man my demand has always been for the same equal rights as heterosexual couples in the eyes of the law.
I have always seen marriage as a religious contract with actions such as adultery being legal terms for divorce.
In a marriage, divorce can result in a 50/50 split of all financial assets. Fewer and fewer heterosexual couples are getting married - perhaps because of this clause. More and more couples are divorcing.
Any couple should be able to enter a "contract" and that contract should be honoured in the eyes of the law.
It appears that civil partnership provides gay couples with all of the tax rights of marriage, but with their own "rules" as to what is acceptable within their relationship.
So, unless heterosexual couples can benefit from a civil partnership we are still no closer to having equal rights. There is one set of rules for gay couples and one for heterosexual. This is wrong.
In countries like Holland, whether gay or straight, any two people can choose either a "living together contract" or marriage. In Holland there are equal rights.
I believe the only real solution in the UK for this is for the state to stop offering "marriage" and to focus on the legal side, civil partnerships.
It should be down to the various religious institutions to offer marriage.
It should be down to the leaders of these institutions to decide whether or not they wish to permit same-sex marriages. This way in the eyes of the law we will, finally have equal rights.
Simon Bosworth, London
I find it really odd that some unmarried heterosexual couples are saying that they want a civil partnership, because what else do they think getting married in a registry office entails?
Why not allow same-sex couples to marry? As long as opposite sex couples are entitled to marry and same-sex couples are not, there will always be inequality.
The religion argument does not cut it. Marriage in the UK per se has absolutely nothing to do with religion. I am an atheist and am about to get married in a civil ceremony.
I believe in the institution of marriage, but not in religion. The law recognises that for me, a woman in an opposite sex couple, without religious belief, marriage is acceptable. Why then not allow same sex couples to marry?
I agree that civil partnership is a step in the right direction, but it is a long way from achieving equality for all.
Heterosexuals who find problems with this partnership tend to gloss over issues such as the next of kin rights that gay people will now be able to enjoy.
Heterosexuals can already marry so there is no need to extend benefits to them that they already have. The rest of us have been subsidising their tax breaks for years.
I think there is some unfairness now for people like two elderly sisters living together, one dies and the other cannot necessarily inherit the house.
These people already will have next of kin rights, but the problem lies in the fact that property values have accelerated past the tax free inheritance threshold. Maybe some other deal could be sorted for people in this category.
Given the pension mess my generation is heading towards, and the rising costs of obtaining graduate education, maybe the government should be made to justify why we should not keep our own money within our own families, rather than hand it over on the death of the holder. What is it doing with all this extra cash?
I live with a partner and we have 2 children. We have never wanted to get married but I fail to see why I should be denied the same rights as other couples simply because I am female and my partner happens to be male.
I now feel that I am a victim of discrimination by a law passed to ensure that discrimination does not take place! Now there's an irony!
In response to Vanessa and David, there are also couples I hear of who are horrified to realise that their partners may have accrued rights through a live-in relationship and may have a claim on their property.
I also hear of people who would not want to get married again after a bad experience and now fear living with someone in case they can make claims on the property they intend to leave to their children.
Surely the old way of marriage (or if need be, this new partnership for gays) or not being married/partnered and not having rights over each other is the most clear cut and fair, in that everyone knows what they are getting into.
Having removed the potential for children by extending such partnerships to gay relationships maybe we need to question why we are privileging sexual relationships over other relationships.
Why should a sexual partner be able to inherit without paying tax but not a brother or sister with whom someone has lived all their lives into their 80s?
Maybe everyone should just be able to nominate a next-of-kin who can inherit without tax issues?
It's a comfort to know that when I die my partner will be looked after, and also myself without any complications from family who have no understanding and remain ignorant .
Andrew T Sweet
Well I do see a problem - I do not wish to marry because marriage is principally a property law.
I should have no less rights than homosexuals just because I happen to be heterosexual. I should not have to marry to share these rights.
I expect the European Court will eventually rule in my favour and for equality before the law.
David Cadogan, Richmond
This is a badly thought out piece of legislation. The only people who will benefit from it are lawyers, who will get paid to test the legislation in different ways in court cases.
All the laws establishing what does/does not constitute a marriage are by now firmly established.
The right thing to do morally, logically and financially would be to allow same sex couples to marry with allL the same rights and responsibilities of heterosexual couples.
Full equality would mean marriage for same-sex relationships. We still have a segregated system and have second class rights.
Civil partnership is a way forward to state acceptance and recognition, however is this a way to cut benefits for same-sex couples?
Also, what about non-married heterosexual couples and other forms of non-sexual partnership?
Heterosexuals can choose to get married. Homosexuals can only be "registered", we can't yet get married.
Please don't tell us that we are now acquiring rights that heterosexuals don't have, you have always been able to get married.
Even in a few weeks, all we will have is a civil partnership, in its barest form, a two minute signing of a register.
Well thanks for making us almost equal, but actually it still feels like not quite a marriage! But still, at least heterosexuals can keep the "institution of marriage" safe from us homosexuals who will obviously ruin it.
Not like heterosexuals who are doing such a good job of looking after it!
I am writing on behalf of Rainbow Ripples, a Leeds lesbian, gay and bisexual disabled people's group.
The civil partnerships legislation is a disaster for many lesbian, gay and bisexual people on low incomes - particularly older and disabled people and parents - who are going to lose out massively because of changes to means-tested benefits.
Some may argue that this will bring parity with heterosexual people. However, everyone plans their future on their expected income. Many older and disabled LGB people have bought or rented houses or taken on financial commitments on the basis of their current income.
This legislation can only bring distress and hardship and take away the independence of thousands of people who will be forced to rely financially on partners when this was never part of their plan.
This is why transitional protection should be given to existing claimants, as has happened for other people adversely affected by benefit changes in the past.
Lucy Wilkinson, Rainbow Ripples, Leeds
The civil partnerships laws can only be good for this country, bringing same-sex couples to a near equal footing with opposite sex couples, although from what I understand it does not go far enough as rights will not be completely equal.
As for heterosexual couples, I do not see why it needs to be extended for them. If couples choose not to marry, that is their choice, but at least they have always had the choice.
Becky Taylor, Peterborough
Hopefully this will help pave the way to people viewing gay couples as being "normal". Though somehow I doubt it.
Why do people get so hung up on the relationships of others? All we want is the same rights as all everyone else.
I love my partner. I want to spend the rest of my life with her. Why does that bother people so much? I want to know that if I died that she would have the same rights as everyone else in the same position.
It hurts so much that people still judge someone based on their sexuality.
It was in the news last week about Rosa Parks and civil liberties, and how it was so wrong to discriminate based on the colour of your skin. Why is this so different?
I can't wait for this act to commence so I can be legally bound to my partner. It is a shame there isn't a date set when that will be accepted by everyone. Whatever happens, nothing can change the way I feel about my partner.
Clare Luke, London
It is about time same-sex couples were given similar rights. I know of a same-sex couple who were in a relationship for 30 years and when one of them died his partner had to sell their home to pay tax on his inheritance. That is not right!
Ok, so there are people out there who will say the same is true of heterosexual couples, but the difference is that they have the option to marry should they wish. To date, same-sex couples have not.
I think this is a great step forward to help establish a fair and equal system for all.
Let's make civil partnerships available to heterosexual relationships, and marriage available to gay relationships.
Then everyone gets to choose exactly what they want for their own relationship. Who could say fairer than that?
The introduction of same-sex civil partnerships is to be welcomed as it extends the legal rights that heterosexual married couples have enjoyed.
However these rights should not automatically be extended to couples living together.
Heterosexual cohabiting couples can enjoy the rights by getting married. Until civil partnerships, same-sex couples had no choice. There was no way of enjoying the legal rights.
Same-sex couples who chose not to enter a civil partnership will continue as before not to have any rights.
So both heterosexual and same-sex couples now have a level playing field, the choice whether to formalise their partnerships or not.
Richard Lucas, London
It has always been my understanding that the purpose behind giving special benefits and privileges to married couples, was to help them in bringing up their children.
Since children cannot be part of a homosexual relationship, then why should these benefits extend to them? This makes me think that unmarried heterosexuals in long-term relationships have a much stronger case for special treatment.
But how do you define a long-term relationship if there is no marriage certificate?
I think it is a big jump forward for equal civil rights for same-sex couples being seen as equal by the government.
There's just as many dis/advantages as there is with heterosexual couples.
The choice is yours to be what you want to be.
Rhys Williams, Cardiff
As I see it, the new law does not give gay couples full equality with straight couples and whilst it is a step in the right direction it just about sums this government up, all talk and very little substance.
Heterosexual people have the right to marry a foreign national and live with them in the UK.
What statutory protection will allow same-sex people from the UK and a non EEA person to settle in the UK?
Either marriage is given special status or it is not. If these rights are to be extended to unmarried homosexuals, why should they not be extended to unmarried heterosexuals?
David Russell, Newton Mearns
As a gay man, I can only welcome civil partnerships and the financial and legal rights that they give to the two people in that partnership.
In the past, issues such as inheritance tax, being refused visiting rights at hospitals, and countless other examples contributed to the unfair treatment of same-sex couples, who in many cases, had been together longer than some married couples.
However, I do think civil partnerships should be open to all, as not all couples want to get married, for religious or other reasons.
I hope that the civil partnership system moves towards being more like the French Pax Civil.
Michael Gedrim, Coventry
The issue of extending the rights to others who live together is now a hot potato for the government.
It is now untenable not to extend the same rights to the huge number of heterosexual couples who live together and, for example, have a joint mortgage, a joint bank account, share the support of their respective children and elderly parents, but are not recognised by law with all that entails.
Vanessa Young and David Pickup, Adisham, Kent
I have lived in a heterosexual relationship for the last 20 years. What rights do I have? Fewer than other relationships. And how many marriages have failed in the same time? Thousands.
Opposite sex couples have always had the right to be married and thus are eligible for all the benefits that civil partnerships will have.
If a gay couple chooses not to register their partnership, then they will not be eligible. The same already applies to opposite sex couples.
The choice is now there for all couples to register in one way or the other to benefit. I do not see a problem.
Dominic Murray, London
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