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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
December 9, 2005

Civil partnerships begin
in the United Kingdom

London--Same-sex couples in the United Kingdom now have most of the rights and responsibilities of married heterosexual couples, although full civil marriage is still restricted to opposite-sex pairs.

Britain�s sweeping civil partnership law took effect December 5. There is a waiting period, so most couples will not be able to be married until December 21.

One couple, however, had the waiting period waived.

Matthew Roche, 46, diagnosed with terminal cancer, was allowed to enter into a civil partnership with Christopher Cramp, 37.

The dispensation was given to Roche because doctors held little hope that he would survive until December 21. He died the next day at St. Barnabas Hospice in Worthing, where the ceremony had been held.

To enter into a civil partnership, the two members of a same-sex couple must sign legal papers, as opposed to the verbal agreement involved in a wedding ceremony.

The partnerships grant same-sex couples in the United Kingdom property, inheritance, immigration, tax and pension rights equivalent to marriage. Opposite-sex couples are not allowed to enter into civil partnerships.

While many LGBT advocates are pleased with the new law, others are calling it �marriage-light,� and arguing that granting same-sex couples a different status only underscores the continuing inequality in British society.

�Only same-sex marriage is genuine equality,� said Brett Lock of OutRage, the U.K.�s most vocal LGBT rights group.

�The government has not offered a single compelling reason why same-sex couples should be banned from marriage or governed by different laws,� he said, pointing to fellow European Union countries like the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain who have instituted full marriage 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,� he continued. �The government would be denounced as anti-Semitic.�

Typical British reserve has taken hold over the entire matter, it seems. Elton John, known for his outrageous stage attire, is planning a simple ceremony for his partner David Furnish and himself. On December 21, he and Furnish will be joined with his and Furnish�s parents as witnesses.

�The ceremony will be very private, a small family affair,� he told Attitude, which bills itself as �The U.K.�s number one gay lifestyle magazine.� It will be held at Windsor's Guildhall, the same venue where Prince Charles married Camilla Parker Bowles eight months ago.

While the three aforementioned European nations and Canada all offer full same-sex marriage, far more nations have civil unions, domestic partnerships or some other lesser form of protections for same-sex couples. These include Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, New Zealand and Portugal.

Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden�s partner laws are so sweeping that they approximate marriage in everything but name.




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