Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Civil Partnerships Begin In UK

Congratulations to the UK !!

by Peter Moore, 365Gay.com London Bureau

Posted: December 19, 2005 8:00 am ET

(Belfast, Northern Ireland) Northern Ireland became the first part of the United Kingdom on Monday where same-sex couples could formalize their relationships.

Shannon Sickles and Grainne Close entered into a civil partnership Monday at Belfast City Hall. They were followed by two other same-sex couples in tying the knot.

"We just want to say that this is a very privileged position we are in this morning and for us this is about making a choice," said Close as she held Sickles hand in front of City Hall.

"We could not be here without the hard work of many queer activists and many individuals from the queer community," Sickles said.

Close in her black pant suit and Sickles in a white suit then went inside to sign the register as about 30 anti-gay protesters staged a noisy rally on the street.

Tuesday, civil partnerships begin in Scotland, and on Wednesday in England and Wales.

Monday morning police in England acknowledged reports that they are investigating death threats against the owners of Pink Weddings, a Surrey company that helps plan gay commitment ceremonies.

The threats appear to have been made by British soldiers serving in Iraq. Police said that the threats came in a letter to Gino Meriano and his partner his partner of seven years Mike Ullett and said that they would be killed if they went ahead with their own civil partnership this week.

The letter was written on official British Army notepaper and had a return address of in Basra, Iraq, but was postmarked in the UK.

In Scotland, the local government in the Western Isles is refusing to register civil partnerships when they begin Tuesday. The tiny community is the only area of the UK that will not allow gay and lesbian couples to enter into unions. The Scottish government in Edinburgh says it is prepared fly in registrars to conduct any ceremonies.

Across England and Wales, England and Wales 687 same-sex couples plan to form Civil Partnerships on Wednesday, the first day the unions become effective.

The most famous coupling will be that of singer Elton John and producer David Furnish in Windsor. John and Furnish have become the poster boys of same-sex unions in the UK with hundreds of people expected to turn out to see the pair.

On the weekend John used the impeding event to draw attention of the plight of gays in a number of countries around the world, speaking out against homophobia and calling for a worldwide effort to abolish anti-gay laws.

Civil partnerships give same-sex couples an opportunity to register their relationships and receive most of the same benefits accorded married couples including pension, immigration, and property rights.

Most of the European Union states already have varying forms civil unions. Only The Netherlands, Belgium and Spain in the EU permit same-sex marriage. Elsewhere, Canada and the US state of Massachusetts allow gay marriage. Last week the highest court in South Africa gave the government one year to pass a marriage equality law.

©365Gay.com 2005

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