Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/281/24448
Partnerships Bill: End All Discriminatory Laws
FOR YEARS gay rights campaigners have been calling for lesbian and gay couples to be able to register their partnerships.
Same-sex couples don't have the right to automatic transfers of property on death. This affects pensions, inheritance, homes and most tenancies. Similar problems face unmarried heterosexual couples.
Same-sex couples can also be discriminated against by being denied hospital visits, not being consulted about surgery and even being excluded from funeral arrangements.
Recently the courts have created limited rights to inherit tenancies for same-sex partners and private members' bills in Parliament have tried to give partnership rights to opposite and same-sex unmarried couples.
As a result of these pressures the government says it will table laws to introduce a civil partnerships scheme for lesbian and gay couples after a consultation paper next year.
This is to be welcomed. But gay rights campaigners will ask first what rights will be offered. In Germany comparable laws excluded joint adoption rights for lesbian and gay couples (recently granted in the UK), imposed special fees and procedures on lesbian and gay couples and were not recognised abroad.
Unfortunately Labour wants to restrict the proposed partnerships bill to lesbian and gay couples. Unmarried heterosexual couples won't be able to register or receive partnership benefits. The government wants to avoid the cost to public service pension schemes of benefits for unmarried partners.
However, these have been introduced in the civil service and House of Commons. MPs who are lesbian, gay or have an unmarried opposite-sex partner enjoy rights Labour is trying to deny to ordinary people. Trade unionists, especially in the public sector, must demand the partnerships bill covers unmarried heterosexual couples as well as lesbian and gay relationships.
Labour also wants to limit its proposals to appease 'family values' interests in the Tory party. Gay rights campaigners condemn this cynical trade-off. A law offering rights to lesbian and gay couples but not to millions of unmarried heterosexual people is a gift to anti-gay bigots in the tabloid press and religious right. They will crow about 'normal' people becoming second-class citizens to gays.
Labour's limited gay rights programme since 1997 shows that concessions to the reactionary right only embolden the bigots and backfire both on the proposed reforms and lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people.
The Socialist Party calls for partnerships rights to be extended to all unmarried couples, heterosexual or gay and for an end to all discriminatory laws. To achieve this a strong campaign is needed.
The reactionary opposition within the Tories and establishment to same-sex couples adopting and the sort of inflammatory prejudices voiced, shows that no right is handed down from on high without a struggle.
The Socialist Party Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) group will be meeting in the new year in London. We will discuss how socialists should campaign on these issues and how best to advance the fight for LGBT rights. Anyone interested is welcome to come. For more information ring Manny on 020 8988 8772 (days) or Lionel on 020 7403 1697 (evening/weekend).
TONY BLAIR told the Financial Times recently that the government's "mission" was to "reform the 1940s settlement over public services".
Bitter experience suggests that Blair's 'reforms' are more like destruction. Sixty years after the Beveridge Report was produced, JACKIE GRUNSELL looks at the welfare state then and now.
In The Socialist 13 December 2002:
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