Civil Partnerships 'welcome, but flawed' - UK must abolish 'sexual apartheid'

Fight for full equality must continue, rights urged for all relationships of mutual care and commitment

December 05, 2005

Peter Tatchell
LONDON — "The legalisation of same-sex civil partnerships is a major milestone in the struggle for lesbian and gay rights in the UK," said Brett Lock of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender human rights group OutRage!

"While there is much cause for celebration as gay couples are granted the rights enjoyed by their heterosexual friends, it is not yet true equality.

"Only same-sex marriage is genuine equality."

Mr Lock was commenting on the new same-sex civil partnerships law that comes into effect in the UK on 5 December 2005.

"The Labour government has elected to follow a model of relationship recognition based on one law for heterosexuals and another for homosexuals. This is nothing less than discriminatory, flawed and unfair," added Mr Lock.

"By being excluded from civil partnerships, heterosexual couples who object to marriage are denied an alternative form of legal protection for their relationship.

"The ban on same-sex civil marriage defines lesbian and gay couples as second-class citizens.

"The Labour government upholds this ban, with the support of the other major political parties.

"The Greens are the only party backing same-sex civil marriage.

"The government has not offered a single compelling reason why same-sex couples should be banned from marriage or governed by different laws.

"Three other EU states (Netherlands, Belgium and Spain) - plus Canada and next year South Africa - have overtaken the UK and opened up marriage to all.

"This complicates issues of immigration and moving between countries for same-sex couples.

"Imagine the outcry if the government said Jewish people could not get married but they could have a civil partnership instead. The government would be denounced as anti-Semitic.

"The ban on same-sex marriage is a form of sexual apartheid.

"OutRage! wishes happiness to those lesbian and gay couples – including some of our own members – who have decided to formalise their relationship with a civil partnership.

"We pledge to continue campaigning until there is justice and equal access to marriage, civil partnerships and a broader form of relationship recognition for all, regardless of sexual orientation.

"Thirty years ago, legal recognition for lesbian and gay couples seemed like a pipe dream. Although flawed, today it is a reality. With many other countries offering full equality, it is sad the UK perpetuates legal segregation and discrimination. Equality is still possible, but only if we keep demanding it," said Mr Lock.

Commenting on the government.s failure to come up with a comprehensive alternative to remedy the deficiencies of marriage law and to also protect heterosexual couples who choose not to get married, Mr Lock's OutRage! colleague, Peter Tatchell, said:

"Instead of legislating 'marriage-lite', the government could have taken this opportunity to modernise the whole legal basis of relationship recognition and rights.

"It should have opted for a broader, non-discriminatory framework of partnership recognition - covering all relations involving mutual care and commitment, including both sexual love and intimate, supportive non-sexual friendship.

"People should be allowed to nominate as their next-of-kin and beneficiary any 'significant other' in their life. It could be a partner or lover, but it could also be a sister, carer, favourite nephew, house-sharer, or best friend. Two widows who set up house together and care for one another, for example, ought to have the option of legal recognition.

"We need an entirely new framework of relationship recognition because many non-sexual friendships are just as sincere, loyal and enriching as relations between people in love. They, too, should have legal recognition. It is unfair to restrict partnership rights to people in sexual relationships. What about close friends who support each other, but who are not in a traditional love coupling? They deserve recognition too.

"Only a minority of relationships last a lifetime. Break ups and the death of a partner are sad realities of life. Single people account for a quarter of all households. This means that friends now play an increasingly important role in people.s lives and support networks. It is wrong to deny legal rights to two loyal friends who have a strong, supportive bond, just because they are not lovers and don't have sex.

"A similar broad system of relationship recognition already exists in Tasmania, and enjoys widespread popular support. If it works there, why can't it work here?," queried Mr Tatchell. – OUTRAGE !

Related stories
UK Council forced to overturn it's gay weddings ban [24/11/2005]



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