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EDITIONS
 Friday, 6 December, 2002, 09:42 GMT
Head to head: Gay equality
Ian Burford (right) and Alex Cannell (second right) were first to sign a partnership register
Ian Burford (right) and Alex Cannell (second right)
Many people in gay relationships have spent years arguing that they should have the same rights as married couples.

They have welcomed the government's apparent moves towards greater equality, but some groups remain opposed to changes which they see as a threat to the traditional family.


Actor Ian Burford signed a London 'partnership register' with Alexander Cannell - a symbolic gesture which brought them no extra rights.

There's some serious inequalities over things like death duties, inheritance tax, joint property, next of kin, hospital visits.

Somebody like ourselves, who have had a partnership of 40 years length now, would be at great disadvantage if one of us happened to die quickly.

It wouldn't apply at all were we considered as husband and wife.

Also, at the time of death - which preoccupies us as we get older - families have a great deal more say in the law than somebody who spent their life with that person.

Not trying to usurp marriage, what we're talking about is people who have shared their lives and inevitably a lot of property, shouldn't be penalised for that.


Colin Hart, director of the Christian Institute, is dismayed by the potential changes.

I think it's very sad because marriage is supported by the state because of its relationship to the bringing up of children.

That's always been understood - it's a natural thing its based on biology, not any ideology.

This seems to be equating some relationships, namely gay relationships, to marriage and I think that's very wrong.

And I think also it's wrong because there are around about 3.4 million people living in non-family households - say two sisters living together.

There may be just as much commitment and care in those sort of households and they won't benefit.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Norman Smith
"At present same sex couples enjoy few of the legal rights of married couples"
  Sacha Deshmuckh, Stonewall
"It is an important step forward"
  Oliver Letwin, Shadow Home Secretary
"We do recognise gay couples suffer from some serious grievances"
See also:

06 Dec 02 | Politics
15 Feb 02 | UK
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