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Last Updated: Monday, 4 December 2006, 23:39 GMT
Couple's joy at civil partnership
By Nigel Pankhurst
BBC News

New laws allowing gay and lesbian partners to unite in civil partnerships were introduced in the UK a year ago.

David West and Keith Gregory are among the thousands of couples to have taken advantage of the legislation since then.

Keith Gregory and David West
I would welcome the opportunity to debate with them and hopefully change the view of people who are against civil partnerships
David West

David and Keith have lived together since 1989, having met 18 months before that.

On 6 January this year the couple, both aged 55 and from Beckenham, Kent, cemented their relationship at a civil partnership ceremony.

Although the partnerships are not officially regarded as a marriage, the legislation allowing them gives same-sex couples more legal rights in areas including employment and pensions.

'Celebrate change'

As David explains, the move means a lot to them - both from an emotional point of view as well as for more practical reasons.

"I'm very definite that gay people should have exactly the same rules as a heterosexual, married couple," he says.

In terms of changes the laws have brought, he cites the example of if his partner was in hospital.

He says: "I could get information on him where I couldn't before.

"The option isn't there for the hospital to turn round and say 'you're not a relative so we can't give you any information'.

"It's important for society as well. If two people are prepared to make a commitment, it shouldn't matter if they're heterosexual or gay.

"I think, going a little bit further, hopefully as society evolves it will advance what people term the 'norm'.

"I can remember when the norm was a married couple with 2.4 children. Going forward we want to embrace different faiths, different sexual orientations.

"For the government to recognise that is a really big step and one that should be celebrated. I never thought I would live to see the day when this would happen.

"I feel much more secure. I don't look at it really from a gay point of view - any couple should have the same security. It's not just a gay thing."

'Reinforced commitment'

However, David recognises that not everyone welcomes civil partnerships.

"I think everybody should have the right to their opinion. I would welcome the opportunity to debate with them and hopefully change the view of people who are against civil partnerships.

"But if they have their viewpoint, they have their viewpoint," he says.

It's given couples like Keith and myself a great deal of security, a lot more than we had before
David West

"I'm very happy that the parliament of this country has seen fit to pass the legislation as it did.

"Civil partnership has reinforced with our own families our commitment to one another. We're very lucky because we're accepted as a couple within the family.

"Also, and it seems very unsentimental, but it gives us both security as we get older, not to come up against things like inheritance tax.

"It makes us both feel very much more secure in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of the establishment."

David and Keith have absolutely no doubt that entering a civil partnership was the right move to make - and have fond memories of their big day.

"We kept it very simple," says David.

"We had family members and some friends on both sides. We went to Bromley register office then we drove back to Beckenham and had lunch in a restaurant there and all went back to our flat in Beckenham and had some Champagne.

"We both felt we wanted to do it that way. We're very happy we went through with it and we've both got rings on our fingers to prove it. That was the emotional part.

'Absolutely overjoyed'

"We're very happy, very glad, and next month will be the first anniversary. It's absolutely fantastic.

"I would like to pay compliment to the registrar at Bromley. I can't think of a more welcoming and warm reaction than we had from her."

David says he is "absolutely overjoyed" that Parliament backed the change in the law.

"I think it's made a very big difference with regard to us, both growing old together and having rights that are recognised in law," he says.

"If people don't agree with that that's nothing that we now need to worry about. It's enshrined in statute.

"It's given couples like Keith and myself a lot more security than we had before."

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