Monday, 5 December 2005

Historic Day

From today, same sex couples in the UK can register to form a Civil Partnership. The first ceremonies (except for a few exceptions in Scotland and Ireland, I think) will take place in 21 December. This will give people rights almost similar to those of straight married couples. This is of course not ideal but it is a huge step forward.

While most people are busy celebrating, a few discordant voices can be heard complaining about the fact that the new law will apparently disadvantage the poorer members of the LGBT community. It seems that because the possibility of the partnership now exists, "unofficial" couples who were, until now, receiving benefits will not be eligible for these benefits any more. My instinctive answer to this is: form a partnership. I understand that another part of the argument is that these couples find themselves forced into patnerships. I am not sure I understand the rationale behind this; or perhaps I understand it only too well.

Since entering a partnership will probably give these people more protection than they currently enjoy, my impression is that the disappearance of the benefits is only a smoke screen for the real issue; one which is recurrent in our modern western society. Until now those people were happy to receive money from the state without accepting any of the responsibilities that it would seem fair to expect them to shoulder in exchange for the support provided. Now they find themselves having to reciprocate (in some tiny way I think) the favour; and they don't like that.

A similar argument can, I think, be raised against their alleging at being forced into a partnership. This change in the law is about giving LGBT people the SAME rights as their straight counterparts. This is about equality; not, selfishly, about the advantages of some of the members of a particular minority section of the community. How can we expect to be listened to if we ask for equality but are not ready to be treated in exactly the same way as other groups? Whether this is good or (only slightly) bad for us. I also think this change will bring much more important advantages (that includes the degree of acceptance of LGBT people by the wider community) than the few bits and bobs we can possibly lose.

I am proud and happy to say that, on 21st of December, I will be attending the civil partnerships of two pairs of friends as well of course as celebrating this historic step towards full equality.

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1 comment:

  1. Actually, where two people (homo- or hetero-sexual) are living together as a couple, they already get the reduced benefits so it will only affect those homosexual couples who form a Civil Parternship but do not live together. How many people is that likely to affect? On the whole though, I think this law is a good idea - it preserves the special status afforded to marriage (which a civil partnership is not) while offering people who love each other, and want to make a commitment, recognition and rights (not to mention tax advantages) from the state.


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