Gay partnership bill moves step closer to passage in UK
October 13, 2004
LONDON — The House of Commons gave preliminary approval Tuesday to a bill
that would give civil partnership rights to gay couples, bringing
it one step closer to passage.
Commons lawmakers voted 426-49 to approve in principle the Civil
Partnerships Bill, sending it on to a Parliamentary committee which
will work on the details.
The legislation, proposed by Prime Minister Tony Blair's
government, would give same-sex couples the right to form legally
binding partnerships and entitle them to some of the same tax and
pension rights married couples now have.
"This bill offers a reasonable and principled solution to the
disadvantages which same-sex couples face because they are unable
to gain legal recognition," said Equality Minister Jacqui Smith.
"The bill sends a clear and unequivocal message that same-sex
couples deserve recognition and respect. It is a crucial step on
the road to a fair and inclusive society."
Under the proposed law, gay partnerships would not be called
"marriages," and Smith said she realized many lawmakers felt
strongly about the religious connotations of that word.
"This is a secular approach that the government is taking to
resolving specific problems of same-sex couples," she said. "On the
vast majority of areas it is the intention of the government that
those people who enter into a civil partnership will receive the
same rights and take on the same responsibilities as we expect of
those who enter into civil marriage."
The opposition Conservative Party did not guide its lawmakers on
how to vote, saying the issue was a matter of conscience.
Tory lawmaker Ann Widdecombe said the bill was "wrong" and would
undermine the institution of marriage.
Conservative Gerald Howarth agreed.
"Aren't you setting up yet another alternative lifestyle which
will be considered by young people to be equally valid and the
nuclear family is going to be destroyed?" he asked.
Once the bill comes out of committee, it would have to be
approved by the House of Lords to become law.
The government says the Lords have already tried to scupper it
by adding amendments that would extend the rights given to gay
couples to cover relatives living together and those providing
long-term care to the ill.
The Commons vote did not address those amendments, but Smith
said they should be stripped out before the bill gets final
passage. – Sapa-AP
UK gay couples queue for civil partnership ceremonies [12/07/2004]