Civil Commitment Pact
A democratic, flexible alternative to marriage.
Gay partners to get rights, but not straights. Government proposals "discriminatory and unimaginative".
"It is divisive, unjust and discriminatory to exclude unmarried heterosexual couples", says gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
He was commenting on the government's plan to introduce a civil registration scheme for same-sex partners, but not for unwed straight couples.
Minister for Social Exclusion & Equality, Barbara Roche, announced today (6 December 2002) that lesbian and gay partners are to be granted many of the legal rights that go with marriage, but that these rights will not extend to opposite-sex relationships.
"Cohabiting heterosexuals also lack legal recognition and protection. This is a grave injustice. I hope the government will amend its proposals to ensure legal rights for all unwed couples, gay and heterosexual", said Mr Tatchell.
Mr Tatchell went on to criticise the government's proposals as "dull and unimaginative".
"Legislation to remedy the lack of legal protection for unmarried partners is long overdue. It is a great pity the government has opted for an unimaginative, watered-down version of marriage, instead of having the foresight to propose an entirely new, modern legal framework for partnership recognition".
CIVIL COMMITMENT PACT
"Why can't we have a more democratic, egalitarian alternative to marriage where people can nominate as their next-of-kin and beneficiary any 'significant other'? It could be a lover, but it could also be a favourite cousin or life-long best friend".
"Many non-sexual friendships are just as sincere, committed and enduring as relations between people in love. They, too, should have legal recognition".
"There is no good reason why partnership rights should be restricted to people in sexual relationships. That discriminates against single people. Any deep relationship based on commitment - whether friendship or sexual - merits recognition and protection".
"As well as allowing people to nominate any person they are close to, a new partnership framework should also offer flexibility and choice with regard to rights and responsibilities".
"There is, nowadays, a huge variety of relationships and lifestyles. There are people who live together, and those who live apart. Some share their finances; others maintain financial independence. The law should reflect and support these diverse relationship choices and realities. The one-size-fits-all model of relationship recognition - epitomised by marriage - is no longer appropriate."
"Any new partnership legislation should allow people to pick and mix from a menu of rights and responsibilities. This flexibility would enable them to devise a tailor-made partnership agreement suited to their own particular needs. Some partners, for example, may want next-of-kin rights but not joint guardianship of children. The law should let them make that choice. Unfortunately, marriage and the government's proposed same-sex civil registration scheme don't give people these options. It is all or nothing".
"Permitting people to choose from a menu of rights and responsibilities has an additional virtue. It would require partners to sit down together and negotiate their obligations towards each other on each specific issue, such as property inheritance and the right to sign a partner's death certificate and organise their funeral. This point-by-point negotiation would force partners to examine their relationship more closely and to think through in greater detail the implications of entering a partnership agreement. It might lead to a sounder, more enduring commitment".
"With marriage and the planned same-sex civil registration scheme, however, there is no obligation on partners to discuss the detail of their mutual rights and responsibilities. They simply sign a certificate, without any need to negotiate the particulars".
"My pick and mix model of partnership recognition - which also gives rights to nominated non-sexual friends - is a democratic, flexible alternative to marriage and civil registration. This alternative, which I have called a Civil Commitment Pact, would benefit everyone - gay and straight, singled and partnered, and lovers and friends", said Mr Tatchell.
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