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Monday, 9 December, 2002, 10:07 GMT
Should gay couples get equal rights?
Same-sex couples would be given property and inheritance rights for the first time under government plans for registered partnerships.
Currently, co-habiting couples cannot access a partner's pension or authorise hospital treatment as their next of kin.
A bill for gay couples to receive many of the same entitlements as married couples could be introduced in the next session of Parliament, and it has attracted support from Tories as well as Labour.
Minister for Social Exclusion and Equalities Barbara Roche says many gay people had been refused hospital visits or excluded from funerals, while others had to sell their homes to pay inheritance tax.
She added that laws recognise and protect gay partnerships in eight European Union countries, Canada and several American states.
Are these plans overdue? What are the practical implications? Tell us what you think.
This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The government is supposed to set the lead and moral tone for the nation, not actively participate in the destruction of what precious little values we have left in society. No doubt drugs will be the next issue to receive the "recognising how society has changed" rubber stamp.
How can people criticise this by talking about morals? It's because gay people have morals just like straight people that they want to be able to commit themselves long term just as straight people can. I married my husband to show commitment to our future, why shouldn't gays and lesbians be allowed to do the same thing?
I would not want to be compelled to give property rights to a cohabiting partner unless children were involved - if I wanted to do that I could marry my cohabitee. Once we recognise cohabitation, regardless of the sexual orientation of the partners, we need to address how property rights are to be protected. This is also a good time to consider giving prenuptial agreements force of law.
Thomas Smekal, Canada
It's very good news, gay couples should have achieved this a while ago, but better late than never. I do hope to see further progress in the near future.
The real benefits from this are not the real issue. It is all about gaining acceptance and recognition from society. For this reason I am against it. I think homosexuality is wrong and we should not send the message to children that it is an acceptable way of life.
Reading the comments from the UK on entitlements for gays left me torn. I thought only conservative Americans were capable of the moral fascism displayed by some of the commentators. Should I be relieved or completely disappointed?
I feel that the objections are coming from the "religious" right. Homosexuality is not morally wrong, it doesn't harm a living soul in this country. Society takes some of its views from religion, and nobody questions the validity of what is said to them. Is everyone too scared to say that they could have been taught this false ideology from birth? Some people just like to try and sound "moral", but if they look at themselves they should realise that their just sounding like someone who disapproves of love.
It's interesting that some people are totally against this move towards assuring stable same sex relationships. It seems to be the same sort who decry gay men for being promiscuous!
This news is welcome indeed. As a gay female who has not had children and never married I have worked for the last 30 years. I have not had children go through the education system, maternity benefits or any tax benefits and have to pay a large proportion of my salary towards a pension that will be lost if I die before retirement or indeed shortly after. Couples who are divorced have rights on their previous spouse's pensions, so why shouldn't my partner when we are committed to one another.
I was delighted to see the news this morning. As a taxpayer who has been living with a partner for nearly 20 years, I think it is about time that discrimination against lesbians and gay men in the legal system was abolished. We are responsible citizens who contribute to our communities and often ask for little in return. Barbara Roche's proposal is welcome, just and timely.
Call me old-fashioned if you like, but as far as I am concerned this is a total and complete undermining of the principle of the family unit, and as such is immoral, corrupt and evil.
I am very pleased this bill does not apply to cohabiting couples. If it did, that'd be the end of marriage. A marriage certificate will be nothing more than just a piece of paper. Why do people live together but not get married? Because, as a lot of them say, "I don't want to commit myself". But how can non-married couples have the benefits of married couples without the responsibilities of a married partnership!
Having been in a stable gay relationship for almost 15 years and having two children via surrogacy with my male partner (twins, Aspen and Saffron) I think this change in the law is long overdue. We are law abiding, pay our taxes and contribute to the UK society in a positive way. Maybe one day the UK will recognise my partner and I as the legal parents to our children!
As the London Liberal Democrat Spokesman for gay and lesbian action group DELGA, I have to say it's too little to late. We have been campaigning for years on equality not just for homosexual but heterosexual couples who do not have legal recognition either. I welcome the move to legislate on this but the problems of inequality are current. More delay will only increase the suffering of many Independent minded UK adults who only seek equality within the law.
I have been with my partner for six years now and still we are not recognised. Technically we are both single. I fully support the bill and think it is disgusting that the church are denying us the right and recognition to be together in the eyes of the law.
I have no problem with homosexuals being married, having kids, etc. They can't possibly make more of a mess of marriage and parenthood than most normal couples. But these demands for equality I find are based more on practical aspects of life, such as tax issues, filling in forms, etc rather than higher aims of love, procreation and family. The minority rights agenda is beginning to look suspiciously like a takeover bid for society.
Craig , UK
Crazy - whatever next? I thought the government was upholding family values, this doesn't do it. We are too compromising a country just to suit people. Where has the decent standard of morality gone. God never intended this sort of thing, He intended man for woman and vice versa. The people condoning this sort of thing for homosexuals will get their just rewards. God have mercy on them.
The only immoral act involved here is homophobia. Thank goodness this government - so disappointing in other areas - has had the courage to fight it, particularly that most revolting sort that uses religion as a cover.
The people that are most at risk in unmarried couples are women with children, who are left stranded with no way of making ends meet if their partners leave them. I would be in favour of any legislation that bolsters their rights - but I think that the law should apply to all cohabiting couples that have been together for two years or more. What is the difference between signing a cohabitation register and a marriage register?
But why does this and all other discussion on improving the rights of cohabiting couples always centre on gay couples? Quite simply, because gays have more political muscle than single mothers. However, if the gay lobby flexing its muscles achieves something really useful for the weakest in society, I will not grumble.
Carl Howard, UK
I can't believe that people are opposing this on the grounds of 'morals'. Since homosexuals (and unmarried couples) contribute equally to society alongside married couples, then to extend the same (essentially financial) rights to them can only be correct. Not to do so is grossly unfair.
No offence is intended, but as a straight man who is about to get married this spring, I fail to see why there is so much animosity to gay marriage. Give me a break, if two people love each other and are committed to spending the rest of their lives together, why should the government stand in the way of a formal commitment between the two? Call me naïve, but such a hindrance smells a lot like tyranny to me! Don't tread on my liberties and I won't tread on yours?
Alex Adekanmbi, USA / Nigeria
I think any couple should be able to be married. I also think that partnership legislation should be available to any two people whose lives are entwined. If people are deemed capable of delivering on their civic responsibilities, such as paying high taxes, then they should be rewarded by civic rights. Treat everyone the same.
I am much in favour! I think that legislation shouldn't stand in the way for two people who love each other. Human rights are for EVERYBODY! Why should anyone deny essential rights for men or women based on their sexual orientation? Why is it so hard for people to create an open mind?
This should be the case for all couples - not just gay - in long term relationships. I have been with my partner for six years and we still have no legal rights regarding next of kin etc, even though we essentially live as a married couple would. It is silly that to have any rights you still have to go through this outdated ritual.
Nobody should get equal rights as married couples unless they get married themselves. This is just another attempt by the feminist anti-marriage lobby to undermine marriage under the smokescreen of gay rights.
Jeff Duncan, Salisbury, UK
I am very much in favour but I have some concerns. Would it have the same legal weight as a marriage, for instance if the partnership ended would you need a "divorce" to dissolve it? If not why not extend this to heterosexual co-habiting couples, many of whom dislike the concept of marriage but would like the protection this service would provide?
It's really refreshing to the see the UK doing something positive for people. I am not gay, and haven't any gay friends, but I am all for people having the same choices and for respecting all human needs.
Why not extend it to partnerships other than couples? Three people are as capable of making a committed relationship as are two. It's the commitment that counts, not the number or gender of the people involved.
Why make people unhappy by denying it? The Christian Alliance says such arrangements should not be equated to marriage because it undermines the value of marriage. Are they seriously saying that straight people will stop getting married because gay people can too?
Yes these reforms are long overdue, and for my partner and I very welcome. I just hope that the Lords don't knock it back when they come to consider the bill.
Totally bonkers!!! Has no-one got any respect for constitutions and morals any more?
No religion has a monopoly on morality. If we now make it legal for a person to be at the bedside of someone they love when they die, then morally I believe we owe ourselves some congratulation as a society that is moving forward albeit slowly and cautiously.
06 Dec 02 | Politics
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