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English Civil Partnerships Bill Passes Final Parliamentary Stages

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The House of Lords has voted to back Civil Partnerships in the final vote on the bill.


Same-sex couples across England, Wales and Northern Ireland will now be allowed to register their relationship and be legally recognised for the first time. Scotland is expected to adopt the laws in the near future.


The historic step forward will see lesbian and gay couples have access to the rights and responsibilities on offer to heterosexual couples who wish to hold a civil wedding.


The vote of support comes despite fears that the bill would be blocked by peers just a day before the end of this parliamentary session.


Gay groups such as Stonewall feared that a large turn out for the Hunting Bill, which also entered the House of Lords again today, could put the success of the Civil Partnerships in jeopardy.


Additionally, Conservative peers attempted to push an amendment that has already been rejected by the commons, having been widely viewed as a "wrecking tactic". However, the vote was won by a majority of 251 votes to 136.


Stonewall's Ben Summerskill said today that the decision was "historic".“This is a historic step forward," he said in a statement this evening. "Finally, the House of Lords has recognised that Britain is a tolerant twenty-first century nation."


His says the broad political support for the bill reflects an important change in British politics. All three major party leaders had supported it, including Conservative leader Michael Howard.


“We’re delighted that the House of Lords has rebuffed those peers who indulged in offensive sneering at Britain’s lesbian and gay population,” Summerskill said.


“For the first time, the front benches of all three major political parties have backed equality for gay people. That represents a hugely positive change.”


The bill will now become an Act, which is expected to gain Royal Assent later this year. [That should be this week for the English/Irish/Welsh bill] The first ever Civil Partnership ceremonies are expected to take place next Autumn. Until then, training will be conducted across the country's registrar system, while financial systems dealing with tax and benefits will be amended.





Here are the key points of the Civil Partnerships Bill, which allows same-sex couples to get legal recognition for their relationships.


Tying the knot


* Couples would enter civil partnerships in local registration services


* Each partner would have to sign the register in the presence of the registration officer and two witnesses


* There would also be a formal, court-based process for dissolving the partnership



Main partnership rights


* The same tax treatment as married couples, including exemption from inheritance tax on homes


* Social security and pension benefits, including right to benefit from a dead partner's pension


* Full recognition for life assurance schemes


* Ability to succeed to tenancy rights


* Next-of-kin visiting rights in hospitals





* Providing reasonable maintenance for civil partners and children of the family


* Ability to gain parental responsibility for a partner's children



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Congratulations, LondonBear!

This is exciting, joyous news! As England takes a jolly step forward, please don't forget your cousins in the USA, as we seem poised to be thrust backwards a century or so. Give us a nod, and a prayer when you can!


La Trix

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