February 21, 2005
Britain to Allow Same-Sex Civil Unions
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 11:53 a.m. ET
LONDON (AP) -- Same-sex partners in Britain will be able to enter into civil
unions from December, joining gays in parts of Europe and the United States
in obtaining many of the rights enjoyed by married people, the government
The Civil Partnerships Bill passed by Parliament last year gives same-sex
couples the right to form legally binding partnerships and entitles them to
some of the same tax and pension rights married couples have.
Starting Dec. 5, couples will be able to notify the register office at their
local council that they intend to form civil partnerships. After a 15-day
waiting period, they will sign an official partnership document in front of
``This legislation is going to make a real difference to these couples and
it demonstrates the government's commitment to equality and social
justice,'' said Deputy Minister for Women and Equality Jacqui Smith.
``It opens the way to respect, recognition and justice for those who have
been denied it for too long.''
The government said some register offices have already started receiving
inquiries from same-sex couples.
Separately Monday, the armed services said they will allow same-sex couples
with registered partnerships to share family quarters.
``We will be complying with the law. We are obliged to give equal treatment
to gay and lesbian partnerships'' under the new act, said Royal Navy
spokesman Anton Hanney, adding that same-sex couples in the armed services
already enjoy equal pension rights.
The new act does not use the term ``marriage,'' but among other benefits it
grants same-sex couples rights to their partners' pensions; gives them
next-of-kin status; and exempts them from paying inheritance tax on a
partner's home. It also will require partners to provide maintenance for
each other and any children in the case of a break-up.
Partners will be able to dissolve the agreement in a form of divorce
Officials at the Department of Trade and Industry estimate there will be
more than 42,000 same-sex partnership agreements in place by 2050.
``This is the moment we fought so hard for,'' said Ben Summerskill, chief
executive of the gay rights group Stonewall. ``At last, lesbian and gay
couples can begin to plan their future lives together.''
Nine European Union members allow same-sex partnerships, beginning with
Denmark, which legislated for the unions in 1989.
In the United States, more than a dozen states recognize some form of
domestic partnerships or civil unions, according to the National Conference
of State Legislatures, but 11 states voted in November to ban gay marriage.