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Is marriage the only way of obtaining these rights? Not being religious, should I discard my personal beliefs and adopt others' to have rights to my son's medical treatment? I know couples that have married for financial purposes. Does this not undermine the 'sanctity' of marriage?
Gareth Jones, England

Why use the title Living in Sin? I have lived with my partner for 18 years - in that time his brother has married, divorced and remarried; his sister divorced and remarried. 1 in 3 Marriages fail so why insist people marry? I am committed to my relationship and don't need a piece of paper or the church's approval to prove this. I deserve the same status as a married woman as I have made the same contributions as they have and am appalled at the attitude of the government and church. I have no desire to marry and resent the pressure to do so in order to give me equality with married women.
Annie Wade, England

The couples seemed to just want to have their cake and eat it

Philip Holley, UK
What a shock my partner and I had having watched last nights Panorama. How can it be okay to refuse me the right to consent to my own sons medical treatment? Stop him leaving the country or sign a school trip form. My blood was at boiling point when I realised that I do not have these rights. Does anyone know if there is any European Legislation that would change present UK law regarding cohabitation? Very informative programme. Well done!
Mick, England

Everyone on the programme seemed to want some kind of legal agreement to be able to be made without getting married. Maybe I'm missing the point but isn't that exactly what you get if you just register a marriage in the registry office? Whether you want religion, family, white dress etc involved in it is up to you but at the end of the day a marriage is just a legal declaration between two people. It's right that gays and lesbians should be allowed to make that same legal commitment if they are happy to leave out the religious aspects. All except the same sex couple seemed to just want to have their cake and eat it and if that's what they wanted then they should have just headed down the registry office in their jeans and trainers and sorted it out.
Phillip Holley, UK

Your programme last night certainly shocked me, I live with my partner and have a five-month-old daughter. I am amazed my partner doesn┐t have any parental rights over her. I think it should be equal rights for all of us, then your own choice to marry for love and commitment not for financial security. wake up government it's the 21st century!
Clare Summerfield, England

The UK is going through a strange pattern of pleasing oneself and not wanting the commitment of marriage from either side when young, but then demanding the (diminishing) benefits of marriage when in middle age. If you're really in love with each other and don't want to marry, the pieces of paper you still need are a legally recognised will as well and a "living" agreement for how a partner will be taken care of, totally separate to the children.
Flynn, England

Having watched your show last night - I am now much more aware of the 'lack' of common law for partners. My comment is that your program was focused on women living in houses owned by their male partners (with the exception to the gay couple). What about the other way round. I assume the law applies regardless but not all women are supported by their male partners, some women support their male partners and the male partners stay at home and look after the children.
Sarah Edwards, UK

I cannot understand why there cannot be a simple contract...agreeing to everything being the same as a marriage

Sarah Edwards, UK
I cannot understand why there cannot be a simple contract, drawn up by a solicitor, signed by both parties, agreeing to everything being the same as a marriage. After all we can make a will, which is legal, stating where all our "goods and chattels" are to go, we need something similar that would state that both parties want all their affairs to have the same legal rights that married couples have, divided down the middle.
Beverly Godfrey, UK

Your program from the BRITISH Broadcasting Corp. was not British, this is from Scottish Parliament Website:-

Cohabiting couples

The main legal rights of mixed-sex cohabitants under Scottish legislation are: Recognition as nearest relative (next-of-kin) for the following purposes; The right to a say in your partner's treatment if they become incapacitated or are treated under mental health legislation; The right to succeed to the tenancy of the shared home on the death of your partner;

Until very recently, none of these rights applied to same-sex cohabitants. In April 2000, the Scottish Parliament recognised same-sex partners for the first time, giving same-sex cohabitants the right to be consulted as nearest relative, if their partner becomes incapacitated.

In June 2001 the Parliament passed legislation which gives same-sex cohabitants the right to succeed to a public sector (local authority or housing association) tenancy on the death of their partner.

These laws define same-sex partners as two people living together in a relationship 'which has the characteristics, other than that the persons are of the opposite sex, of the relationship between husband and wife'. The definition is intended to ensure that courts treat same-sex couples the same as mixed-sex cohabitants.

Same-sex partners in Scotland do not yet have the same rights as mixed-sex cohabitants in: nearest relative consultation under mental health legislation, succession to private sector tenancies, the right to claim damages for injury or death of a partner, protection from domestic abuse, and the capacity to foster children jointly. However, some further changes are likely in the near future.
Ian Dougals, Scotland

I found tonight's programme hilarious. The individuals featured were amazed to find that they had no rights because they were not married. What a surprise! Did it not occur to them that they owned no property? Did they never work out what would happen if their partner died? The legal facility already exists to give partners shared rights to assets - marriage. If people aren't willing to get married, how can they expect the legal protection that marriage is specifically designed to offer? I hope the programme will prompt people to think about their situation, so less people will be as daft as those featured!
P.A.Hughes, UK

The real horror story uncovered by this programme is the position of unmarried fathers whose lack of legal rights over their children beggars belief

Paul, England

As my daughter said to me many years ago (1976), cows don't get married why should we? Swans mate for life
Kim, West Sussex

If people do not wish to get married then that is fine - it must be assumed that they have good reasons for not doing so (mainly financial I would imagine). The real horror story uncovered by this programme is the position of unmarried fathers whose lack of legal rights over their children beggars belief. This lack of inequality must be rectified immediately.
Paul, England

My partner and I have been together for 10 years, bought a house together (joint tenancy) four-years-ago and have a 15 month old son. I have been trying to tell my partner where he legally stands as a parent since I got pregnant. Thank you for showing this programme, I think it is starting to hit home for him - we will be filling in a P. R. agreement tonight.

Also, in the programme, it mentioned you may have more of a case if there were joint names on household bills. Have you tried getting joint names onto a bill? We have only managed it with our water - other companies aren't interested.
Zowie Sutherland, England

If the current laws are not changed because they are protecting the 'sanctity' of marriage, many couples will be forced to enter marriage for financial reasons. Marriage does not mean a couple are more committed to each other, it merely means they have taken part in an officially recognised ceremony. I would like to think that when I decide to get married it will be for the spiritual reasons the church is trying to protect, and not to save the roof over my head or to increase my pension rights.
HD, England

I am in a same sex relationship, and have been in this relationship for almost twenty years. I have paid tax and national insurance on a par with my heterosexual peers - why shouldn't my committed relationship, which involves all the commitment, care and sharing that a marriage would, be subject to some kind of legal rights? We would marry if we could, to ensure that each other had protection in the eyes of the law - but we do-not have this option. That is why same-sex couples need legal protection - we don't have the same option to sign a legal binding document that heterosexual couples have.

But it has to be said that our society has moved into a secular one - marriage after all, is a Christian institution, and we widely acknowledge that our society is a multi-cultural, multi-faith one, so why cannot we embrace the notion that all committed relationships, regardless of same sex/mixed sex nature be accorded basic civil rights of inheritance?
M.Hughes, England

If my partner and I could have been married we would have done so some time ago. But we are 'not allowed' to in this country

Karen Duke, England

Congratulations on an excellent and thought provoking program. Good though it was, I do feel that perhaps it was a little skewed in that it in no way touched on the very unpalatable truth that for many couples who do not marry, the situation represents an abuse of power (usually though not always of men over women).

Many women, particularly those who have devoted their time and energy towards bringing up the children of such a relationship find that they are trapped where they are because of their lack of rights, even though it may not be the best thing for their own or indeed for their children's physical, emotional or psychological well-being. The abuse lies in the knowledge that the men in such relationships often remain financially in control of the destiny of the relationship. Money is power. At the end of the day, if a man (particularly one who has already been divorced) can avoid further financial commitment he will do so.

He can say 'there is the door' safe in the knowledge that his partner would be cutting her own throat financially were she to do this and if she did actually pluck up the strength and resources to face such uncertainty with her children then, hey, what the heck, he hasn't lost out financially at the end of the day. It is this (a reality for many women, especially the poorest and most vulnerable) that undermines marriage and this alone.
Camilla Mottram, UK

I have been in a stable same sex relationship for six years. I was aware of the pensions issue (I work for local government), however I am horrified at inheritance tax, I had not even thought of it! If my partner and I could have been married we would have done so some time ago. But we are 'not allowed' to in this country, it's time this country grew up and respected peoples rights.
Karen Duke, England

I cannot stand the way some of you are assuming we are all Christians or religious. It would be totally hypocritical of me to get married for the sake of it when I have never been to a church for a service. I have been in a relationship for 11 years with 2 children. All the bills, bank accounts, and mortgage are in joint names simply to make things easier in the event of death. It is the 21st century and I'm not going to let this government dictate my life. They can't even sort their own out.
Vicky, Essex

I was shocked by your programme tonight. To think that my partner can not authorise medical treatment for our three-year-old child, if I'm not available to do so.
Miss J. M. Tindle, England

I would like some clarification as to what Scots law is applicable to common law marriage as my belief is that it does recognise such "marriages".
J Williams, Scotland

If a woman comes to live with me for a couple of years she can walk off with half of it under the proposals your film supports

John Wilkinson, England

I have a lot of money which has taken me decades to build up and generations of those in my family before me who have given me assets. If a woman comes to live with me for a couple of years she can walk off with half of it under the proposals your film supports. This will be enormously unjust. The reason why I won't marry now is to avoid this injustice. If I break up from my partner I will treat her fairly but to give her half my assets is unthinkable. The system we have now is not perfect but the alternative of compulsory loss of rights for me under the system you support is much worse.
John Wilkinson, England

It is about time this government got its collective brain round the ideas it is supposed to have been espousing for the last twenty years. Equality for all. Pull your fingers out and do something to achieve equality for all. A first step may be to allow unmarried partners the same rights as others. from one who has been married for twenty seven years.
Carol Yeend, England

Concerning your program tonight on living in sin. Isn┐t it amazing that the father of the baby that needed the operation had no rights to sign any papers but had he and his partner split up he would be liable for vast amounts of maintenance by law! As for the sanctity of marriage this is only a Christian idea forced onto us by early traditions by the church so how hypocritical of us non believers to get married just to gain rights. surely it's about time we caught up with the 21st century
Kevin. N. Wales, U.K.

If the Government truly thought that co-habitation undermined marriage, they would do more to make marriage attractive and support marriages/family life. My experience of marriage was 21 years with a violent partner and no support from any legal body when I finally left. So, not too interested in marriage again, though now in physically safe relationship. Very unhappy that either I or my partner would be subject to inheritance tax if either of us died - we have both fought/paid much to secure our future. Clearly the Government decision is founded on greed.
Ruth, England

'Living in Sin' - does the church really want people to make a mockery of marriage purely for financial reasons. With this issue being raised people may 'rush to the alter' and an equal rise in divorce rates will follow.
Jenny Morgan, Scotland

I watched with interest and horror when I learnt that as an unmarried father I had no parental rights over my three year old daughter

Steve Stokes, England

Following your programme this evening with reference to rights out of wedlock. I am a gay male in a stable relationship for some 18 years now and I was most disturbed to learn of the laws in this country. I am most keen to learn of an action group or similar that will challenge the Government on this issue, especially when they themselves have given themselves the privilege of being above the laws for the people of the land. I will fight tooth and nail to protect what my partner and I have built over our lifetime. This needs to be brought to the attention of every citizen of Great Britain, or should I say Blair's Britain.
Gordon Parkin, England

As a male single home owner, I am more than curious to know does the new legislation in discussion mean if a partner moves in with, me after two years she could take half my property. (No children involved which is a different matter). In your programme you do not address abuse of the prospective laws even to discount them. Anyway, I believe co-habiting couples should be able to voluntarily enter into a financial contract making it a personal choice. That way it could be accessible to all and could side-step the issues the Government does not want to address.
A Spellman, England

Thank you very much for Sunday's programme, I watched with interest and horror when I learnt that as an unmarried father I had no parental rights over my three year old daughter! Can you tell me where I can obtain the "parental responsibility agreement" form from, only I feel I need to rectify this situation as soon as possible.
Steve Stokes, England

I watched the programme tonight about living in sin. You seemed to only be talking about England and Wales. Where was the Scottish perspective which I am sure has a different legal view on cohabitation rights.
Rachel Gordon-Smith, Scotland

Ok so the Women in your report are perceived as having a hard ride of it when they split up with their partner. But what about the man? Whether in wedlock or not, his entitlements to the one most precious thing in life seems to be weighed in the favour of the mother.

Personally - God forbid - if my wife/partner split up with me for whatever reason I would give the clothes off my back, one of my limbs in fact - to have custody over the children. It would be interesting to discover the percentage of cases where the man won custody of the children when a relationship broke down.

Never mind who gets the money, who gets the most precious thing imaginable? Is there any fairness in the justice system? I suspect not. Your report is OK, but it is female and money orientated. Lets see the aforementioned investigated.
Phillip Doyle, England

The Government has no right to say how people should live their lives

Emma Eveleigh, England

What is all the fuss about? Married couples also have "no rights" when it comes to bank accounts, insurance, loans, or anything that is in one name only. If the Government feel it is important to stress that couples should marry then why does every official form contain the word "partner"? This appals me as I have been married for 33 years and always delete the word, substituting it with "husband."

As for the couple with the baby who needed an operation, how is it that the mother has rights when the father doesn't? I am of the opinion that we should not judge others but do what is right for us. I say give couples the same rights whether married or not. After all this is the 21st century.
Mrs P Sheldon, England

I'm a bit concerned about the poor woman who was unable to register the death of her partner. As a doctor I give the certificate of cause of death which enables a death to be registered on a regular basis. It is accompanied by a slip which states a wide variety of people can register the death. Next of kin comes first, but a person who was present at the moment of death, the owner of the house/ institution where the individual died or "the person causing the disposal of the body" may do it. This poor woman has been given duff information and I regularly see common law partners registering the death. My uncles partner did so.
Dr Sara Furness, UK

If the law relating to couples is to be changed, then it must protect BOTH partners, and their children, whether they are married or not. Tonight's program only deals with the iniquities of the law with regard to unmarried women. It does not mention married men who are "taken to the cleaners" by their wives after their partners have found another man with whom they plan to live. let's get it right...what's good for the goose...etc
Dave. Essex, U.K.

After watching tonight's programme, I'm appalled to find out how few rights we unmarried couples have. The Government has no right to say how people should live their lives. To myself and my partner, a piece of paper means nothing to us. As for the idea of messy break-ups between co-habiting couples, what about all the messy divorces? I see little difference. If people want to get married, that's their choice, but those of us who choose otherwise should not be penalised.
Emma Eveleigh, England

I object strongly to the tenor of your programme. It can hardly be called objective! You seem to be provocatively suggesting that people who live in sin should have rights. They do not. Marriage was instituted by God and is the only basis for family and the upbringing of children.
Derek Tripp, UK

I imagine that many people have had their eyes opened tonight, due to your programme. These laws, I think, are designed to protect the sanctity of marriage. If these laws are changed then people will not get married and this will undermine the sanctity of marriage. If couples are going to go to the trouble of sorting out financial arrangements if things go wrong, then they may as well get married in the first place. Couples who are fully committed to one another should get married, or seek legal advice before making any commitment to each other outside of marriage.
Steve Fuller, England

The title living in sin is emotive and a deliberate attempt to suggest that anybody who believes that a legal arrangement needs to be made to secure a proper environment for children is bigoted. Couples who simply set up home together and live together without some proper arrangement must be dim, they would not dream of making any other decision even taking out a loan without considering their legal position. Marriage is simply an essential legal need and people who continue to live like this must have made the decision to accept that they have no legal rights. The answer is simple just get married. If one of the couple does not want to get married then the answer is also clear the other one should get out quickly.
G.R.Larter, England


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