The Equality Bill became law 8th April 2010
Summary of the Bill
The Bill will harmonise and in some cases extend existing discrimination law covering the 'protected characteristics' of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. It will address the impact of recent case law which is generally seen as having weakened discrimination protection, and harmonise provisions defining indirect discrimination.
- Provides powers to extend age discrimination protection outside the workplace
- Clarifies protection against discrimination by association, for example in relation to a mother who cares for her disabled child
- Extends protection from discrimination on the grounds of gender reassignment to school pupils
- Extends discrimination protection in the terms of membership and benefits for private clubs and associations
- Creates a unified public sector duty, intended to promote equality in public policy and decision-making, existing provisions being extended to the protected characteristics of sexual orientation, age and religion or belief, and proposes a new public sector duty related to socio-economic inequalities
- Provides for legislation requiring that employers review gender pay differences within their organisations and publish the results
- Provides for changes to the way that individual claims are enforced, and gives employment tribunals wider powers to make recommendations for the collective benefit of employees
- Allows a Minister to amend UK equality legislation to comply with European law without the need for primary legislation
- Extends the period for which all-women shortlists may be used for parliamentary and other elections until 2030 and allows parties to reserve places on shortlists of candidates for people on the grounds of race or disability.
Single Equality Bill
New bill announced in Queen's Speech will “drive forward equality”
The government will introduce a new Equality Bill in the coming session of Parliament, the Queen has confirmed.
In a speech from the Throne in the House of Lords Her Majesty set out the legislative programme for next year, a total of 13 Bills.
The Equality Bill includes proposals for all public bodies to promote equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people in addition to their current duty to consider how their spending decisions, employment practices and service delivery affect people whatever their race, disability or gender.
The legislation is expected to come before MPs in March or April, though there are still some fundamental issues to be clarified.
Ministers confirmed today that the duty to promote equality will include gender identity alongside sexual orientation.
It is unclear if organisations that provide services such as shelters for the homeless or faith schools will be counted as a “public body.”
Some of the fundamentalist Christian groups who have previously opposed equal rights for gay people have made representations to the government on the issue.
The Conservative party has broadly welcomed the legislation, which will streamline the nine current statutes on discrimination into one clear instruction.
Theresa May, Shadow Secretary of State for Equalities, told PinkNews.co.uk in October:
“Our approach on the Equality Bill is to say that we think it is right to bring all the legislation together to streamline it.
“There are some areas where we are waiting to see quite a bit of detail from the government on some tricky areas like age discrimination.
“One of the issues was religious and faith issues. There is a challenge for legislators around this conflict.
“I think one of the big challenges in this area is when you get two different aspects of anti-discrimination legislation which appear to be in conflict.”
Today ministers insisted that there will be no “hierarchy of discrimination” and all groups would be protected equally, but that the duty to promote equality would not extend to the public sector.
Gino Meriano says “this is great news and finally we may well see Equality for all people and our rights truly accepted in society and protected by law, to often these laws have been put into place but still challenged but I belive we are heading in the right direction for absolute social inclusion”
Thank you to Pink News for the story http://www.pinknews.co.uk/news/articles/2005-9743.html
There is to be a single Equality Act for Great Britain, bringing disability, sex, race and other grounds of discrimination within one piece of legislation. The proposals for this include some major changes to disability discrimination law.
The framework can be found here - Single Equality Act
The purpose of the Bill is to: make Britain a fairer place where people have the opportunity to succeed whatever their race, gender, disability, age, sexual orientation, religion or belief. Fairness and an absence of discrimination are the hallmarks of a modern decent society, with a strong economy, which draws on the talents of all.
The main elements of the Bill are:
• Making Britain fairer through a single equality duty, which will require public bodies to consider the diverse needs and requirements of their workforce, and the communities they serve, when developing employment policies and when planning services;
• Making public bodies more transparent. If inequality remains hidden, we can't measure it and make progress;
• Enabling employment tribunals to do more to tackle unlawful discrimination by making recommendations to employers on their working practices which will benefit their wider workforce;
• Extend existing positive action measures to allow:
Employers to make their organisation or business more representative and reflective of the people they serve; and,
o Public bodies to deliver services in a more effective way to disadvantaged groups who may otherwise miss out; and,
o political parties to use all women election shortlists until 2030;
• Making the law more accessible and easier to understand, by bringing together nine major pieces of legislation and around 100 other laws in a single Bill.
The main benefits of the Bill and related secondary legislation are:
To promote fairness and equality of opportunity; tackle disadvantage and discrimination; and to modernise or strengthn our law to make it fit for the challenges that our society faces today and in the future
2008 - 10th Jan
Hate amendment is through the Commons - next, the Lords
Twelve Labour MPs defied the government last night to vote in favour of an amendment to the proposed offence of incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation.
The amendment sought to allow "discussion of, criticism of, or expression of antipathy towards conduct relating to a particular sexual orientation, or urging persons of a particular sexual orientation to refrain from or modify conduct according to that orientation."
It was defeated by 338 to 169.
Five Tory MPs voted against the amendment: Crispin Blunt, John Bercow, Michael Fabricant, Robert key and Ed Vaizey.
The amendment was touted by activist Christian groups as a protection of religious free speech.
However, the government has given repeated assurances that religious people will continue to have the right to express their homophobic views.
"We are talking about threatening words or behaviour intended to incite hatred against a group of people on the basis of their sexuality," Justice minister Maria Eagle told MPs.
"That is very narrow and very clear."
A new offence of incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation was a manifesto commitment from the Lib Dems at the last election. Four of their MPs - Colin Breed, Alan Beith, Tim Farron and Greg Mulholland - voted for the amendment.
Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly voted with the government, which surprised some Westminster watchers.
As a devout Roman Catholic, she has faced persistent questions about her commitment to LGBT equality and her voting record on gay rights.
The rebel Labour MPs were: Joe Benton, Ronnie Campbell, Jim Dobbin, David Drew, Paul Flynn, Roger Godsiff, Kate Hoey, Peter Kilfoyle, Greg Pope, Geoffrey Robinson, Geraldine Smith and David Taylor.
They defied a three-line whip and could face sanctions for voting against the government.
David Cameron did not vote, along with other 'new' Tories such as George Osborne, Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt, Theresa Villiers and Grant Shapps.
Shadow Justice Secretary Nick Herbert voted in favour of the amendment.
The Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill now moves to the House of Lords.
There were 18,059 civil partnerships formed in the UK between December 2005 and the end of December 2006. A total of 16,173 took place in England with 1,131 in Scotland, 627 in Wales and 128 in Northern Ireland. Almost 2,000 partnerships were formed in December 2005. On average, 1,600 partnerships were formed each month between January and March 2006, falling to 1,500 between April and September and 800 between October and December.
Gino Meriano, founder of Pink weddings say “We have certainly demonstrated our commitment and long awaited need for gay families to be recognised in law and exceeded the government's estimate, but more importantly shows how gay families and relationships do have a place in modern society”.
More men than women formed civil partnerships. In 2006, 60 per cent of all civil partners were male compared with 66 per cent in December 2005. In England, 9,913 male and 6,260 female partnerships were formed up to the end of 2006. The corresponding figures were 633 and 498 in Scotland, 318 and 309 in Wales and 71 and 57 in Northern Ireland.
Male civil partners tended to be older than female civil partners. The average age at formation in the UK in 2006 was 47 for men and 44 for women compared with 54 and 46 in December 2005. The average age of all partners in 2006 was highest in England (46) and lowest in Northern Ireland (41). The average age was 45 in Wales and 44 in Scotland.
London had the highest proportion of male civil partnerships with more than three times as many male partnerships (3,429) formed as female (1,059) up to the end of 2006. Yorkshire and The Humber and the East Midlands were the only regions where more women than men registered a partnership.
London was the most popular region within the UK in which to register a partnership between December 2005 and the end of 2006. A quarter of all civil partnerships took place in London, whereas the region accounts for only 12 per cent of the UK adult population. Areas in which the largest number of civil partnership formations took place were Greater Manchester Metropolitan County (734) Brighton and Hove Unitary Authority (689) and the London Borough of Westminster (602). The proportion of male partnerships in these areas was 59, 66 and 85 per cent respectively.
Up to the end of 2006, 10 per cent of men and 24 per cent of women forming a civil partnership in the UK had been in a previous marriage. In 2006, 21 per cent of people entering a partnership in Wales had previously been married compared with 16 per cent in Scotland, 15 per cent in England and 12 per cent in Northern Ireland.
Ruth Kelly ousted in cabinet shift
Finally, after numerous petitions, visits to number 10 and an article about the hopes/fears of Gordon brown – it is announced that British politics has changed today when Gordon Brown announced his Cabinet appointees, shifting former Communities secretary Ruth Kelly to Transport secretary.
Gino Meriano, Gay rights campaigner and founder of Pink weddings says” for whatever reasons Gordon Brown moved Ruth Kelly, our overall thoughts should be to the fact that we no longer have a Roman Catholic and a devout member of Opus Dei, as position of Minister of Women and Equality.
We now look to the Single Equality Bill for Great Britain and a hope this will be passed fairly and without personal opinions, all eyes are now focussed on Hazel Blears, Labour MP of Salford. I would also like to thank everyone that has helped support our campaigns and signed the petitions against Ruth Kelly”
This consultation paper sets out the Government's proposals for a Single Equality Bill for Great Britain.
The proposals have been developed as a result of the Discrimination Law Review, launched in February 2005 to consider the opportunities for creating a clearer and more streamlined discrimination legislative framework which produces better outcomes for those who currently experience disadvantage. This consultation seeks your views on various specific proposals for achieving this.
Gino Meriano, gay rights campaigner and founder of Pink weddings says “this certainly gives us food for thought and begs a wide range of questions. For example
Should Civil Partnerships be open to all or will marriage be the clearer more streamlined route
How will this impact religious organisations including gay religious organisations and gay families
We now have to be more vigilant that the rights we have secured to date remain and we enhance and embrace further rights through this consultation. It is time again to stand up and be heard to ensure the Single Equality Bill is genuinely equal, considering this has taken Ruth Kelly around a year to address and release”.
The Government invites your comments. Please send your response no later than 4 September 2007 .
Email responses are preferred. If you are replying by email please include the words consultation response in the subject or title. These and any queries can be sent to Kate.Hepher@communities.gsi.gov.uk
Pink weddings will start its campaign over the coming weeks, It's essential that organisations and individuals alike respond strongly to this consultation.
The Equality Act is now live
Well the news is out, The Equality Act is in as of yesterday and no longer will our community be made to feel second class and full Equality is now a law. If you don't understand how this law can impact your life feel free to drop us a line.
Gino Meriano gay rights campaigner and founder of Pink Weddings says " its been a fantastic few years, so many changes in the law It is good to know that all the pieces are finally being put into place and our rights are being recognised under the law. However, the job is not done and everything is still not signed, sealed and delivered, there are many grey areas and so much more to do this is only the beginning of a new era in gay rights"
The list is starting to grow
1999: Ban lifted on serving in Armed Forces
2001: Age of consent made 16
2002: Same-sex couples can adopt
2003: Repeal of Section 28
2005: Civil partnerships
2007: Equality laws
The future is open to so much more, watch this space
In the Lords tonight -
Equality Act (Sexual Orientation)
I'm delighted to be able to let you know that the House of Lords has just voted by 168 votes to 122 in support of our new goods and services protections for Great Britain. This was the very final vote we'll face on this issue and the new regulations will now come into effect from 30th April 2007.
Gino Meriano, gay rights campaigner and founder of Pink Weddings says "A fantastic result and a new era is born, from the 30th April we finally have equal rights . When this legislation comes into effect organisations of all sizes supplying goods and services maybe caught off guard. Its just as important for gay businesses to understand the true impact this law will have on society today".
This is the end of a hugely tough campaign which has lasted more than two years These new laws are long overdue and will make an enormous difference to the everyday lives of millions of people in Britain.
I would personally like to thank everyone who has supported our work, campaigns and who helped us submit over 10,000 signatures to parliament over the last year alone.
Sexual Orientation Discrimination
That the draft Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, which were laid before this House on 12th March, be approved. —[Kevin Brennan.]
The House divided: Ayes 310, Noes 100.
Division No. 79]
Even Ruth Kelly voted in favour, find out who said ayes and noes
The Equality Act is planned for the 30th April instead of the 6th,
the long wait is nearly over
The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
(Ruth Kelly): I have today published the Government's Response
to the consultation "Getting Equal" and laid before Parliament
the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007. The new
Regulations will outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual
orientation in the provision of goods, facilities, services,
education, the disposal and management of premises and in the
exercise of public functions in Great Britain.
They will tackle practical barriers and real everyday problems.
For example, they will make it unlawful for a shopkeeper or a
restaurant to refuse to serve someone because of their sexual
orientation, or a school to discriminate against a student
because of his or her parents' sexual orientation.
Our consultation on these issues has been extensive and has
provided evidence that this kind of unfair treatment takes place
far too often. The goal of the new regulations is to make such
While the case for this new legislation was widely accepted,
opinion was divided on the issue of how the Regulations ought to
balance the competing rights of individuals to hold and manifest
a religious belief against the rights of lesbian, gay and bisexual
people to live free from discrimination.
It is exactly because of these complex issues about how to
reconcile potentially competing rights and freedoms that the
Government consulted so extensively on these measures.
I have listened carefully to the many points raised, and I believe
that the balance we have reached - which is the same as that
achieved in the Northern Ireland Regulations and endorsed by the
Joint Committee on Human Rights - is the right one.
Our approach will ensure that nobody will be required to act in
a way that contravenes their core religious beliefs, but where
religious organisations enter into an agreement to provide services
to the wider community, on behalf of and under contract to a public
authority, the rights of lesbian, gay and bisexual people to have
equal access to those services comes to the fore. This is in line
with the conclusions reached by the Joint Committee on Human Rights,
in its recent Legislative Scrutiny report on the Sexual Orientation
Specific concerns were expressed about the application of the
Regulations to the adoption and fostering sector. The Prime Minister
addressed these issues in his statement of 29 January 2007, when he
acknowledged the excellent and valuable work undertaken by
faith-based adoption agencies and announced that, in the interests
of vulnerable children, the regulations will provide for a
transition period for these agencies until the end of 2008. In the
interim, any agency wishing to take advantage of the transitional
arrangements will have to refer gay, lesbian and bi-sexual people
to agencies who are able to assist. In addition, the Prime Minister
announced that he would be commissioning an ongoing independent
assessment of the issues agencies would need to address in the
transition period, if much valued and needed services are to be
retained and developed.
In a similar spirit, the Regulations will include an exemption in
relation to insurance that will have the same effect as provisions
in the Sex Discrimination Act and regulations made under the
Disability Discrimination Act. It is our intention that this
particular exemption will not apply beyond the end of 2008. We will
work with the insurance industry and others to ensure that if any
exemption is required beyond 2008, it reflects a genuine need in
the industry and is in line with industry best practice, and we
will legislate accordingly.
Subject to Parliamentary approval, the new Regulations will come
into force on 30th April, 2007, at the same time as similar
protections on grounds of Religion or Belief, set out in Part 2 of
the Equality Act 2006.
The Government's Response will be placed in the Libraries of both
5th March 2007
Adviser resigned after Kelly backed Church's policy on gay adoption By JONATHAN OLIVER
A top aide to Cabinet Minister Ruth Kelly has quit amid claims of
conflict over the devout Catholic's hardline views on homosexuality.
Policy expert Rachel O'Brien left her job last week as special
adviser to the Communities Secretary, who has responsibility for
the Government's equal rights policy.
The resignation follows the fierce political row surrounding new
legislation, due to take effect in April, which would make it illegal
[sic] for a publicly funded adoption agency to turn down a homosexual
Ms Kelly sided with Church groups, which demanded exemption from the laws which will force their adoption agencies to end discrimination
against gay couples - a practice which would contradict Christian
Ms O'Brien, a life-long Labour loyalist, joined the Government last
year as a £50,000-a-year political adviser, specialising in equality
Whitehall sources have told The Mail on Sunday that Ms O'Brien became increasingly frustrated with her boss's foot-dragging on granting homosexuals equal rights.
'Rachel is a feisty woman with strong views and she had come into
Government to implement equality,' said the source. 'Ruth is a
difficult person to work for. The two often clashed.'
It is understood that tension between Ms O'Brien and her Cabinet
boss began to grow after a row about who should represent the
Government at last July's London Gay Pride festival.
Ms Kelly, as Minister in charge of equality, came under pressure
to attend but refused.
Eventually, Environment Minister Ben Bradshaw, the first gay MP to
have a civil partnership, went in her place.
Ms Kelly, a member of the extreme Catholic organisation Opus Dei,
has repeatedly refused to say whether she endorses the official
Church doctrine that homosexual acts are sinful.
However, in January it was reported that she tried to water down
legislation which would give equal rights to gays who wanted to
It came as the Roman Catholic leadership issued a plea to be
granted exemption from the new legislation.
Senior churchmen warned that they would rather shut down their
adoption agencies than comply with the new rules which forbid
Prime Minister Tony Blair backed Ms Kelly's stance, but both were
forced to give way following a Cabinet revolt.
It is understood that Ms O'Brien, who is in her early 40s, handed
in her notice at the end of last year shortly before the adoption
row was first reported.
She was persuaded to continue part-time as she worked out her
notice until she finally cleared her Whitehall desk last week.
But Ms O'Brien insisted she had not fallen out with Ms Kelly. She
said: 'It is complete nonsense. I have never had a disagreement
with Ruth Kelly. I left the job for my own personal reasons.'
Approved Venues, a time for change
On the 5 th December 2005 the Civil Partnership came into force allowing gay couples across the UK legal rights when sealing their relationship.
Despite extensive responses to the consultation from Gino Meriano and his company Pink Weddings. The DTI overruled true equality and opted for “Lazy” equality.
This is how
The current position regarding the licensing of approved premises for Civil Partnerships covers both Marriage and Civil Partnership, however, the venue CAN choose to offer Marriages OR Civil Partnerships OR both. Hence allowing venues to choose through prejudice and hide behind their licence.
Under the Registrar General's guidance to Authorities for the approval of premises as venues for Marriages under section 26(1)(bb) of the Marriage Act 1949 and Civil Partnerships under 6 (3a)(a) of the Civil Partnership Act 2004.
Under the Types of premises – section 8
The premises will be approved for the solemnisation of marriages and the registration of civil partnerships and must be regularly available to the public for use for one or the other. The holder of an approval may decide that the premises are only available for marriages or for civil partnerships and not for both. If a person is aggrieved by approved premises not being available for both, he or she should be advised that this cannot be enforced under marriage and civil partnership legislation. The authority has no powers to intervene and it is a matter that the person will have to pursue with the holder of the approval.
Ensuring true equality
At present the Regulations prevent local authorities from refusing to licence a venue which provides weddings but refuses to offer Civil Partnership ceremonies. We seek a change in this law.
Any venue that currently holds a licence or wishes to apply MUST provide the service of Marriage and Civil Partnerships in order for a licence to be granted.
Gino Meriano, Campaigner and Founder of Pink Weddings said “Quick and decisive action should be taken to make this important change. Approved venues have this opt out option which undermines the intent of the Equality Act. If this continues the Government and local authorities will allow discrimination a massive loophole in the retail and good sector.
I call upon Ruth Kelly to take action now and show how effective she can be as our Diversity Minister by championing this change without letting here personal or religious prejudice interfere”.
25 January 2007
Tony Blair caved in last night in the row over homosexual adoption in the face of a full-blown Cabinet revolt.
Gino Meriano, Campaigner and Founder of Pink Weddings said " The closer we reach April and the introduction of the Equality Act we see the true colours of the religious influenced minority in Government crumble. Our campaigning and support from so many have sent a clear message to all who oppose Equality, 2007 is the year to banish "lazy" equality.
Another victory sees Blair forced to back
down in today's Telegraph.
In a stark illustration of his diminishing authority, the Prime Minister has been forced to accept a deal which will rule out any exemptions
for Roman Catholic adoption agencies from gay rights laws.
The Prime Minister had infuriated the Cabinet by declaring he wanted to strike a compromise after the Catholic Church threatened to close its adoption agencies if it was made illegal for them to turn away same-sex couples.
But a series of Cabinet heavyweights – led by Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary – made clear they would oppose any watering down of the Sexual Orientation Regulations, which come into force in April as part of the Equality Act.
The revolt left Mr Blair dangerously isolated, with only a handful of ministers prepared to back him, including Ruth Kelly, the Communities Secretary and a devout Catholic. Last night a senior Labour MP warned that Miss Kelly may have to resignover the issue.
After several days of intense negotiations, Mr Blair is understood to have accepted that it would be impossible to reach an agreement which offered an opt-out from a law which makes it illegal to discriminate against people because they are gay when providing goods and services.
Whitehall sources said last night that the only concession Mr Blair has emerged with is a "transitional" period to allow the Catholic agencies time to adapt to the laws.
Cabinet divisions were exposed by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the Roman Catholic leader in England and Wales, warning of agency closures. No 10 responded by saying Mr Blair was trying to
find a compromise that recognised the "sensitivities" of both the Church and supporters of gay rights.
But Mr Johnson and Peter Hain, the Northern Ireland Secretary, said yesterday that legislation to outlaw discrimination against
homosexuals must not be diluted at the behest of the Catholic Church.
They were backed by most of the Cabinet – including Patricia Hewitt, the Health Secretary, David Miliband, the Environment Secretary, and
Tessa Jowell, the Culture Secretary.
The pressure on the Government intensified when the Archbishops of Canterbury and York – Dr Rowan Williams and Dr John Sentamu – joined Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor to warn ministers not to trample over people's consciences.
But Mr Johnson hit back by making clear that he opposed any plans to give the Catholic agencies an exemption.
He told Sky News: "There are disagreements on lots of issues but we are very clear on this. There was always an issue about adoption agencies because, right from the start of this process, the Catholic Church has been arguing that Catholic adoption agencies are exempt. I don't agree."
Mr Hain, who introduced similar laws in Ulster, told The Daily Telegraph: "The law as it stands makes it absolutely clear that decisions can be taken in the best interests of the children … I
think it's right there is no discrimination under the law anywhere."
Opponents of exemptions say the Catholic agencies only deal with a small number of cases, but Mr Blair's spokesman said they had a strong record of working with difficult-to- place children.
"What we do need to focus on is the real practical outcomes of policy," he added. "No matter what the decision is in principle, we have to bear in mind the practical impact on children."
How the Cabinet is split
Ministers backing adoption "compromise" :
Ruth Kelly, Communities Secretary
John Hutton, Work and Pensions Secretary
Hazel Blears, Labour Chairman
Ministers opposing exemptions for the Catholic Church:
Alan Johnson, Education Secretary
Patricia Hewitt, Health Secretary
Jack Straw, Commons leader
Peter Hain, N Ireland Secretary
Tessa Jowell, Culture Secretary
Hilary Benn, International Development Secretary
David Miliband, Environment Secretary
Douglas Alexander, Transport Secretary
And those undeclared:
Gordon Brown, Chancellor;
John Reid, Home Secretary;
Des Browne, Defence Secretary
Jacqui Smith, Chief Whip
Faith or career – the choice facing Kelly
Ruth Kelly may be forced to choose between her
career and her faith after Tony Blair's climb
down in the gay adoption row, a senior Labour MP warned yesterday.
As a devout Roman Catholic, the Communities Secretary has been a key figure in recent days in the attempts to find a compromise deal that would have given the Church's adoption agencies an opt-out from new gay rights laws.
As it emerged last night that a Cabinet revolt has forced the Prime Minister to rule out any such exemptions, questions were being asked about whether Miss Kelly's conscience would allow her to carry on as a Government minister.
Stephen Pound, one of Labour's most prominent Catholic backbenchers, said she had been left in an invidious position.
"We seem to be living in a world where people who have strongly held views are somehow derided for that. In Ruth's case there is demonstrably a conflict," he told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme.
"Is it right for us to expect someone to abandon everything they believe in because of the prevailing majority view? Does she abandon her ambition or her faith?
"She is in a desperately difficult situation. She is a Roman Catholic who happens to be a politician, not a politician who happens to be a Roman Catholic."
Meanwhile, rifts also opened up within the Church of England, with liberal bishops privately expressing dismay that the Archbishops of
Canterbury and York had thrown their weight behind the Catholic Church.
Most embarrassing for Dr Williams and Dr Sentamu was a statement from the Children's Society, of which they are both honorary presidents, firmly distancing the charity from their stance. The
society, a leading national charity that was founded by the Church 136 years ago, said decisions by agencies about who adopts must be
made in the child's best interests.
"We do not feel that anyone with the capacity to offer the appropriate love, care and support to meet the needs of a child should be prohibited from applying to adopt or foster," it said.
It is understood that the statement was issued after consultation with the Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Rev Timothy Stephens, who is the chairman of its trustees. But a spokesman stressed that
the charity was not governed by the Church.
The society reversed its ban on gay couples adopting in 1999 after a fierce debate within the Church. Since then, however, it has ended its
involvement in adoption and fostering.
The Rev Richard Kirker, the chief executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, said: "The Archbishops are now at odds with the society of which they are presidents.
"This sends out a very confusing message, to say the least, and it will upset a lot of people in the Church."
Mr Kirker added that Miss Kelly should resign if she is unable to "deliver equality across the board."
The row centres on new laws on new Sexual Orientation Regulations which are due to come into force in April as part of the Equality Act.
They will make it illegal to discriminate against people because they are gay when providing goods and services. The new laws will cover a huge range of organisations, from adoption agencies
through to bed-and-breakfasts having to offer rooms to gay couples.
21 January 2007
Kelly in new storm over gay law
Ruth Kelly is trying to water down new anti-discrimination laws to let Catholic adoption agencies turn away gay couples.
Backed by Tony Blair, the embattled Communities secretary is at the centre of a full-scale cabinet row over the new gay rights laws.
She was forced to postpone a formal letter setting out the exemption late last week because of opposition by her senior colleagues, The Independent on Sunday has learnt.
But Ms Kelly, a devout Catholic and member of the Opus Dei sect, remains determined to include a loophole for her church in the Equality Act 2006 which comes into force this April. A spokeswoman for Ms Kelly, who has overall responsibility for equality, said the minister wanted to "protect the pool of prospective parents" and would be trying to find a "pragmatic way forward" this week.
The Catholic church has threatened to close its seven adoption agencies rather than comply with laws that forbid them to discriminate against gay couples.
Ms Kelly, already at the centre of controversy after admitting sending her son to private school earlier this month, insists she is acting in the best interests of the thousands of children placed for adoption each year.
The Prime Minister is supporting her efforts to water down new laws that are supposed to guarantee gay people equal rights to goods and services.
But Ms Kelly faces a humiliating defeat on the issue as senior ministers queue up to oppose what they regard as an unworkable and unfair loophole.
Alan Johnson, the Secretary of State for Education, who refused Mr Blair's request to grant the exemption when he was responsible for the issue last year, has been joined by Jack Straw, David Miliband, Des Browne and Peter Hain. Blairite loyalists such as Tessa Jowell and Lord Falconer have expressed their dismay.
Angela Eagle, the vice-chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, said that the exemption would drive a "coach and horses" through laws designed to end anti-gay discrimination. Chris Bryant, MP for Rhondda, said the move would have the effect of denying vulnerable children "a loving home".
Same-sex adoption was made legal in England and Wales in 2002 but Catholic agencies were allowed to turn away gay couples on the grounds that they were not married.
Of the 2,900 children put up for adoption last year, the agencies placed around 4 per cent. But they found homes for around a third of the "difficult-to-place" children. Ms Kelly argues it is these children that would suffer if Catholic couples were no longer encouraged to adopt by church-run agencies.
Gay campaigners argue, however, that gay parents are themselves more likely to adopt the most vulnerable children and nothing should be done to bar them from the system.
Gino Meriano gay campaigner and founder of Pink Weddings said "This is a matter for the church to decide not Ruth Kelly, if they feel the closure of the adoption agencies will be the right answer for them, then so be it. It will give way to other organisations to open and offer a dedicated service of adoption that is not surrounded by religious beliefs".
Ms Kelly refuses to say whether she regards homosexuality as a sin. She has defended failing to vote for civil partnerships or gay adoption on the grounds that they are "issues of conscience".
Gino Meriano takes petition to Number 10
It was certainly a novel way to spend your first anniversary. Most gay couples would choose dinner, or maybe drinks with friends. Perhaps a nice cruise - on a ship, obviously.
Gino and Mike Meriano instead spent the first part of their special day at Downing St , handing in a petition to the Prime Minister calling on Ruth Kelly to resign.
"I want her resignation with immediate effect. There has been a delay in introducing new protections for gay and lesbian couples caused by Ruth Kelly. That is completely unacceptable," said Mr Meriano as he waited to get past the stringent security surrounding the Prime Minister's London residence.
Gino was inspired to take action when he heard Ms Kelly, currently the Secretary of State for Communities, claim that 3000 objections had been raised against the new rules, which will outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods and services.
"The delay is because of her religious beliefs. This is the religious groups campaigning to allow their prejudice against us to be exempted from the law."
Mr Meriano, from Weybridge, Surrey , collected 3000 signatures from individuals and organisations to match those that Ms Kelly claims are the reason behind the delay.
As the founder of wedding organisers Pink Weddings, he says he has had enough of venues and suppliers refusing to work with gay couples.
"We must stand up and speak out, we do not deserve nor should we accept this attempt to settle for ‘lazy equality'.
"I would rather be in the pub on my anniversary - instead I am out here in the rain," he told PinkNews.co.uk, as he waited with his partner and a small band of supporters outside the imposing Downing St gates.
The couple were one of the first to sign the civil partnership register. They were legally joined just after 8am on the 5th December 2005 at Brighton & Hove City Hall .
Despite the downpour, both Mr Merianos were excited to find themselves on the doorstep of No10, even if the late departure of a visiting African dignitary had delayed matters by a few minutes.
Workmen struggled to remove a rain-sodden red carpet, to the disappointment of the Merianos, who hoped it would still be in place when their turn came.
While they waited, the anniversary couple spotted Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, being chauffeured in what else but a Jaguar, and Education Secretary Alan Johnson, driving himself in a Prius.
Mr Johnson was a vocal defender of the new regulations in Cabinet, telling colleagues that the government must press ahead with equality in the face of religious prejudice.
After yet more rain, the Merianos finally got to hand in their petition. Both confessed to being excited by their short experience on the doorstep of power.
They departed for a celebration lunch at the Edge in Soho Square , their objection to Ms Kelly lodged.
3000 FOR Full Equality
Sign the petition email@example.com
Pink Weddings are asking for everyone who is FOR Full Equality to show Government how our society feels about their proposed Equality Act's ‘lazy' implementation.
It's again time for all of us who support the spirit of the Equality Bill, regardless of sexual orientation, to really let our elected politicians know when they are missing the point!
Gino Meriano, founder of Pink Weddings says “We must stand up and speak out, we do not deserve nor should we accept this attempt to settle for ‘lazy equality'. We are seeking over 3000 signatures that show support of the campaign which will be presented to Mr. Blair and Ms. Kelly on the 5th December 2006”.
As a social enterprise, Pink Weddings is relentless in the struggle for real acceptance of gay families.
Meriano continues, “in today's society true acceptance should simply be the norm. Kelly is simply buying time while individuals' religious beliefs are used to unduly steer policy. We will not be bullied into a lazy Equality Act that only suits personal opinions or based solely around religious faiths".
The Civil Partnership Act came into force on the 5 th December 2005 led by Megg Munn and Tony Blair. Pride in the Government's steps towards real equality for gay and lesbian families was so strong that Megg Munn attended England 's first Civil Partnership in Brighton .
Gino Meriano adds “Meg Munn's attendance at our Civil Partnership signing shows personal religious beliefs are just that – personal – and do not dictate state business.”
Please help us spread the word, we must add to their work and show how passionate, dedicated and eager we are in seeking fairness, equality and the right to be accepted in society.
E mail names to firstname.lastname@example.org
Cabinet split over new rights for gays
· Blair backs Ruth Kelly in church row
Gaby Hinsliff, political editor
· Faith schools seek equality opt-out
Sunday October 15, 2006
The cabinet is in open warfare over new gay rights legislation after Tony Blair and Ruth Kelly, the Communities Secretary, who is a devout Catholic, blocked the plans following protests from religious organisations.
Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, was so angry with the move that he wrote a letter to Kelly three weeks ago, telling her that the new rights should not be watered down.
The battle between what is being dubbed the government's 'Catholic tendency' and their more liberal colleagues centres on proposals to stop schools, companies and other agencies refusing services to people purely because of their sexuality.
Tony Blair, who sent three of his children to Catholic schools, is said to be anxious about the impact on faith schools and faith-based adoption agencies, which are demanding to be exempt from the law.
Kelly has now delayed the introduction of the laws for consideration of what a spokesman said were 'difficult issues'. Johnson is leading the opposition to watering down the laws. 'His department has in the past taken the faith schools' line but Johnson is saying they have got to be sensible about this,' said a senior Whitehall source. 'You can' t have Satan worshippers going into the local church to have their annual meeting, but if there's a publicly funded school and it wants to open its facilities to everyone else but not a local gay and lesbian group - that's discrimination.'
The proposed measures would ban discrimination over the provision of goods and services, meaning, for example, that hotels which banned gay couples from sharing a room could be prosecuted. In turn, gay bars would also have to be open to straight clients. More broadly, the rules potentially affect everything from fertility clinics' right to refuse lesbian couples IVF treatment to whether the tourism industry can promote heterosexuals-only honeymoon resorts, drawing several Whitehall departments into the row.
Faith schools have, however, led the protest, arguing that the rules could affect teaching about sex or require them to let gay groups hold meetings on their premises after hours. Catholic adoption agencies fear being forced to allow gay couples to adopt children. The Catholic church, which regards homosexuality as a sin, has suggested adoption agencies would close down rather than obey.Johnson, who originally agreed the proposals when he was Trade and Industry Secretary before a Whitehall reorganisation transferred the issue into Kelly's department, is understood to be dismayed that they are now in jeopardy.
The issue has also tested David Cameron's progressive credentials, with senior Conservatives still locked in debate about their response.
The new regulations were due to have been introduced this month. That has been delayed until next April after what a spokeswoman for Kelly's Department of Communities and Local Government said was an unusually large number of representations.
'There are some difficult issues,' she said. 'There are issues around Christian B&Bs, where it tends to be Christians that stay there and some of the religious lobby are saying they would not be happy for a gay couple to stay there.'
The proposals already exempt so-called doctrinal issues - giving vicars freedom to preach sermons as they wish. Ministers insist religious education teachers would still be able to teach what the Bible says about homosexuality, and that the measures would simply mean faith schools could not, for example, refuse to admit openly gay pupils.
Chris Bryant, the Labour MP who is both gay and an ex-vicar, said he was 'very anxious' about the likelihood of exemptions being granted: 'Where organisations are working on behalf of the state, the only thing that should matter is the interests of the children involved. It would be an enormous mistake to provide exemptions for faith-based organisations.'
Ben Summerskill of Stonewall, the gay rights lobby group, said backing down particularly over adoption would also have serious consequences: ' It would be playing into the offensive and completely dishonest stereotype that somehow gay people are not safe with children, and the impact that would almost certainly have on the wider gay and lesbian public is [feeling] that the government was stigmatising gay people for no good reason.'
The consultation is particularly sensitive because both Kelly and her deputy equalities minister, Meg Munn, as well as Blair, are committed Christians.
The dispute is now likely to go to a cross-departmental cabinet committee for resolution. A source close to Kelly insisted the delay did not mean she was refusing to implement the proposals.
3rd Oct 2006
Regulations to prohibit sexual orientation discrimination in the provision of goods and services are to be made under Part 3 of the Equality Act. These regulations were to be implemented in October 2006. On Tuesday 3rd October it was made public that Ministers have decided to delay the implementation of these regulations until 6 April 2007.
The Equality Act is delayed
Tthe primary reason for the delay was the scale of the response to the government's consultation: over 3000 responses were received.
The government implements measures that impact on business on only two dates each year, and as the October date isn't possible, April is the next available common commencement date. This change will allow the Department of Trade and Industry to publish guidance on the regulations and do some awareness raising before the regulations come into force.
Decisions about the date when the Government's Response to the consultation held earlier this year will be published have not yet been made, but updated information about the Government Response and progress with the regulations will be published on the Women & Equality Unit website.
Regulations prohibiting discrimination in the provision of goods and services on the grounds of sexual orientation were due to be intoduced later this month.
The UK government has delayed implementation until 6th April 2007. No reason for this change has been given.
An Open Letter to Tony Blair on his appointment of Ruth Kelly
Ruth Kellys new appointment, help us support the following campaignand send us an e mail to sign the petition.
With regard to your appointment of Ruth Kelly as government Minister for Equalities
We the undersigned, representing a broad cross-section of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community organisations, recognise the following:
- Ruth Kelly has absented herself on grounds of "conscience" from almost every parliamentary vote on LGBT equality issues
- Ruth Kelly voted against LGBT equality, for an amendment seeking to limit adoption to heterosexual couples
- Ruth Kelly is an open member of Opus Dei, a homophobic religious pressure group whose conservative social agenda presents a conflict of interests with her post as Minister for Equalities.
We wish to stress from the outset that we are not attacking Ruth Kelly's Catholic faith per se; although we are anxious that as a loyal Catholic she is bound to adhere to the homophobic strictures of the catechism, which denounce gay relationships as 'debased', 'disordered'and a 'grave depravity'.
We are more disturbed by Ms Kelly's membership of the social conservative religious pressure group, Opus Dei. It pushes an anti-gay moral agenda which is in clear contradiction to many of the aims of the government's equalities programme, particularly on issues affecting the LGBT community.
But first and foremost, we object to her failure to endorse LGBT equal rights in a succession of parliamentary votes. It is her actions that provoke our greatest concern.
We have no confidence that Ruth Kelly, whose job it is to champion equality legislation, will do so with passion and conviction when she has tacitly admitted that her own ideological position is in opposition to this legislation, as demonstrated by her voting record on LGBT human rights issues.
We accept that it is possible in theory to act with 'professional detachment,' as those in favour of Ruth Kelly's appointment have argued. However, we are not convinced that a person whose parliamentary voting record on LGBT equality is equivocal and even hostile will be as effective as someone who has actually voted for lesbian and gay equality.
Those seeking to dilute gay equality measures and introduce exemptions for religious bodies will find strength and encouragement in the knowledge that the government minister responsible for these matters, Ruth Kelly, is ideologically and conscientiously on their side.
It is obvious to us that Ms Kelly is likely to sympathise with the arguments of her co-religionists and may be more likely to give in to their demands – more so than a minister with a heartfelt belief in equality.
Ruth Kelly will have to mediate whenever there is an apparent conflict of interests between the faith and gay communities. How can we be certain that she will mediate fairly and objectively?
Ms Kelly's role as Minister of Equalities is untenable because she will become the symbol of the fault-lines between communities, rather than a bridge between them.
The fault lines are already becoming evident. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the head of the Catholic Church, was one of Ruth Kelly's most high-profile supporters. The Cardinal wrote to The Times newspaper in support of Ruth Kelly's appointment, but it has now been revealed that the Cardinal fired his press secretary simply on the basis of his sexual orientation.
In view of the Catholic Church's sacking of an employee (who was not employed in a theological or doctrinal position), many in the LGBT community fear that Ms Kelly's Opus Dei allegiance may inhibit her from acting entirely objectively and fairly on LGBT issues.
Finally – and most importantly – we fail to understand how the government can appoint a person to this ministerial position when that person – Ruth Kelly – has absented herself from almost every significant vote on equality issues during her entire parliamentary career – and in one case actively voted, with homophobes, in favour of legal discrimination against same-sex couples fostering and adopting children.
Ruth Kelly has demonstrated no commitment to gay equality and, consequently, we have no confidence in Ruth Kelly as Minister for Equalities.
The Equality Act - B&B law sparks Bible backlash
Denis Campbell, social affairs correspondent
When the Government decided to outlaw people being discriminated against because of their religion or sexuality, it hoped the move would guarantee equal treatment for all of Britain's increasingly diverse population.
But nobody in Whitehall foresaw the backlash that would unfold when hundreds of committed Christians who run bed-and-breakfasts were deprived of their right to ban gays, unmarried couples and people of other faiths from staying under their roof.
Hundreds of B&B owners across the country have been writing to ministers complaining that the new rules will force them to 'betray God' and their consciences by allowing 'undesirables' to enjoy their hospitality.
'We've had a lot of correspondence from Christian B&B operators who don't want to be forced to accept Satanists, Muslims, gays and even unmarried couples as guests,' said a Home Office official. 'Protestants have been writing in saying they shouldn't have to admit Catholics because they have an issue with their religion, Catholics saying they didn't want Jews under their roof and objections from followers of other types of faith.'
The Department of Trade and Industry, which sponsored the Equality Act, has also received scores of written protests. Under the legislation passed last October providers of services to the public will not be able to refuse to deal with individuals or groups because of their religion or sexual orientation. Christian groups are demanding an exemption.
Dr Don Horrocks of the Evangelical Alliance, which represents about one million Christians in the Anglican, Baptist and other faiths, said : 'The Equality Act is being called "the bed-and-breakfast law". One B&B worker in the north has told me that he would rather cease operating than have gays staying in his house.
'Homosexuals have human rights, but so do religious people, and potentially there's a clash between them.'
The new protection for gays and lesbians is partly inspired by the case of Tom Forrest, the proprietor of the Cromasaig B&B in the Highlands, who, in 2004, refused to let two gay men share a bed in a double room. Forrest has condemned the new regulations as 'atrocious'.
A DTI spokeswoman said: 'The idea that you could say to someone "I don't like black people in my shop" is ridiculous and illegal, so why should that not be the same for religion or sexuality? We live in a modern society where people of all different religions, colours and sexuality are entitled to their human rights.'
Is your Civil Partnership being refused?
Pink Weddings, the UK 's leading same-sex family social enterprise, continues to further the rights of gay couples.
Following a request from a gay couple who were frustrated by the ignorance and potential discrimination shown by Egg Credit Card
Pink Weddings have successfully initiated a change in process within Egg that now means same-sex couples will be treated in an identical way to married couples wishing to change their name and have their spouses' status recognised on their accounts.
After sealing their relationship with a legally binding Civil Partnership, the couple fought to get EGG to recognise their Civil Partnership Certificate should be accepted by the company to allow a simple name change.
Gino Meriano, Founder of Pink Weddings said “it was a long and sometimes awkward road to get legal recognition – it is an even longer and more fraught road to social acceptance for gay families but we will not stop until we achieve it.”
Gino Meriano spoke with officials at Egg and in a matter of hours discovered that adequate knowledge of the Civil Partnership had not been communicated to staff throughout the company.
Later that day, a call was placed to Pink Weddings advising that EGG will now accept a Civil Partnership Certificate for name changes and that a communication has been sent internally to update its employees.
Gino Meriano continued, “At Pink Weddings, we are determined to bust through stereotypes and misconceptions. I encourage couples who experience unfair treatment to drop me an e mail and let me know.”
Only today, we received another request for help about a financial company that says no to the name change and not recognising the Civil Partnership
The Trade and Industry Secretary, Alan Johnson, yesterday unveiled a consultation paper which aims to offer gay and lesbian people the same protection under law within the goods and services sector which is afforded all other members of society.
The legislation will be introduced this October under the Equality Act 2006, which will make it unlawful for any pub, club, hotel or religious charity to discriminate against anyone because of their sexual orientation.
Currently it is illegal in the provision of services to discriminate on grounds of gender or race, and recent cases – such as the refusal of Scottish B&B owner Tom Forrest to allow gay couples to share a bed – have highlighted this omission from the Act.
Not only would the new legislation make it illegal for a hotel to turn away a gay couple, but it would also protect schoolchildren who suffered homophobic abuse because either they or their parents were gay. Unwillingness on the part of the school to tackle this kind of bullying and abuse could leave the school open to a discrimination claim.
One of the more contentious aspects of the bill is that relating to religious organisations, as they will only be able to discriminate against gay people in relation to specific doctrinal activities such as ceremonies. Under the new proposals a religious based charity would not be allowed to withhold their services from an individual because of their sexuality.
At the announcement of the consultation paper Alan Johnson said: “It's easy to forget how far we have come over the past eight years. We have repealed Section 28, equalised the age of consent for gay men and introduced civil partnerships for same-sex couples. Now we are going even further.”
“Too often gay and lesbian people can face discrimination in the everyday lives. I want to make sure that no one gets refused a room at a hotel or a table in a restaurant because of their sexuality.”
Director of Stonewall, Ben Summerskill, was encouraged by the details of the paper: “We are delighted that Alan Johnson is demonstrating his determination to wipe out homophobia where it exists, particularly in the provision of public services. He has been instrumental in pushing these measures forward.”
The Equality Act 2006
Consultation Document on proposals to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods, facilities, services, premises, education and public functions.
The Equality Act 2006 included a power that allows the Government to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods, facilities and services, in education and in the exercise of public functions. The Government intends to use this power to make regulations that take effect in October 2006.
On 13 March 2006, the Government published Getting Equal: Proposals to Outlaw Sexual Orientation Discrimination in the Provision of Goods and Services. This consultation paper describes the approach proposed for these regulations and seeks views on specific points about the range of activities that should be covered by the regulations, and on whether any exceptions should be provided from them to ensure that the protection provided is effective and appropriately targeted.
An electronic version of this publication is available at www.dti.gov.uk
The House of Lords has passed the Equality Bill and it now awaits royal assent. The Government plan to issue a consultation document "shortly" on the power to make provision about discrimination or harassment on grounds of sexual orientation (clause 81), and to exercise that power "by October", according to DTI Secretary Alan Johnson at Commons Third Reading last month.
Gay couples allowed to adopt
Same-sex couples are now allowed to adopt children together, as part of the biggest overhaul of British adoption law in 30 years.
The new law went into effect last week, three years after it was first passed by Parliament.
Previously, same-sex couples had to choose which partner would adopt the child, giving the other partner fewer parental rights.
The changes will also open up adoption to unmarried heterosexual couples.
Felicity Collier, chief executive of the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, said the changes brought the law into the 21st century.
"Opening up adoption to unmarried partners will encourage more people to consider adoption," she said.
"This is very important at a time when too many children wait too long in temporary care waiting for an adoptive family or, in some cases, never have the chance of adoption at all."
"Every child has a right to a permanent legal relationship with both the people who are looking after them," she told the BBC.
These changes came after same-sex couples across the country began taking advantage of the new civil partnership laws.
Grainne Close of Northern Ireland and her American partner, Shannon Sickels became the first same-sex couple to exchange vows in the United Kingdom on December the 19th.
Prime Minister Tony Blair said the new laws are "correcting an obvious injustice" for gay men and lesbians.
"In general, past hostility and suspicions have been replaced with tolerance and understanding. Our laws and political culture, however, had simply not kept pace with these changes," he wrote in an article for the Independent newspaper last month.
"There is, of course, no room for complacency," Blair warned. "There is still too much injustice, discrimination and unfairness.”
We are legal, The Civil Partnership came into effect and saw hundreds of couples across the UK giving notice in preparation for their big day from the 21st December onwards.
The Online Registration System
We have heard today that GRO are not 100% certain that their computer system for the Civil Partnership will be ready for the 5th December. To make absolutely sure that this will not affect couples wanting to register, they decided late yesterday to implement the paper system they had created as a contingency.
Gino Meriano founder of Pink Weddings said, "There is absolutely no reason to think Registrars will fail to deliver in ensuring couples obtain their signing and ceremony they have been waiting for. The important thing to remember is couples will still be able to express their commitment and gain their legal rights with or without an online system".
God is now invited to the register office wedding
A strict ban on any reference to God, prayer or worship in register office marriage ceremonies in England and Wales is to be lifted, the Government announced yesterday.
The General Register Office (GRO) lifted a ban on songs and poems which incidentally use the word God or refer to religious terms, in response to a consultation exercise on updating civil marriage ceremonies, which were first authorised in 1837.
The new rules will also apply to civil marriage ceremonies that take place in other approved premises, such as hotels and football stadiums. Classical music with religious origins, such as Pie Jesu, Ave Maria or Zadok the Priest, might be allowed as "background" but only after discussion with the local registrar.
The GRO is now issuing fresh guidance and advice to local officials next month.
Civil Partnership and Council Tax
The Civil Partnership Act 2004 will have important consequences as regards council tax. Changes will be brought into effect to ensure that civil partners and those living together as it they were civil partners will be treated in the same way as married couples, and opposite-sex couples living together as if they were married. Some of the changes will be brought into effect on 5 December 2005 and others on 1 April 2006.
Changes to who is liable for the bill
As of 5 December 2005, civil partners and people living together as civil partners, will be jointly and severally liable for council tax in the same way that married couples and people living together as husband and wife are jointly and severally liable. This means that both people in a same sex couple will be responsible for seeing that the bill is paid.
Changes to discounts, exemptions and the recovery of council tax
As of 1 April 2006, changes will be brought into effect to council tax discounts, exemptions, and to the way that council tax is recovered. Council Tax Information Letter 5/2005 (CTIL 5/2005) issued by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister provides further details. CTIL 5/2005 can be found at the following link:
The government has announced changes to the immigration system, ahead of the new civil partnership laws, that could make it easier for same-sex, bi-national couples to stay together.
The changes will bring the immigration rules into line with those for heterosexual couples and will allow civil partners and proposed civil partners to be treated in the same way that spouses and fiancés are currently treated.
Additionally, in a bid to help ease the projected congestion of applications, applications for approval will be accepted from 14th November, although the new civil partnership laws do not come into force until the 5th December.
Gay couples and those battling for those impacted by the immigration issues were celebrating today.
Nichola Carter, a specialist on immigration laws, of H2O Law said the changes would have a positive impact on lesbian and gay couples.
“The Civil Partnership Act 2004 signals a new era for same-sex partners whose simple desire is to be treated on an equal footing with their heterosexual counterparts,” she told GAY.COM today.
Ms Carter also praised the work done by UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group for its work on the issue.
“UKLGIG paved the way for the Act over a decade ago, by holding the Government accountable for its unequal treatment of same sex unions where one of the partners was from overseas.”
“The Act will finally enable couples, many of whom have been separated unjustly by the harsh interpretation of the requirement to prove that they have resided together for a period of two years, to live together in the UK simply because they are in a committed and recognised relationship and have sufficient funds.”
The changes were announced in a written ministerial statement in parliament this morning. The statement said the changes will “ensure that civil partners and proposed civil partners are afforded the same treatment” as heterosexual couples.
Those subject to immigration control who wish to register a civil partnership will be required to demonstrate either an entry clearance granted for the purpose of registering their partnership, a certificate of approval from the Home Office or settled status in the UK.
Application forms for the certificate of approval will be available on the Immigration & Nationality Directorate website before the 14th. Same-sex couples are being reminded not to use the marriage forms currently available.
Additional Words to the signing
Recently announced words (not legally required) announced by the Minister to be part of the registration are:
"I declare that I know of no legal reason why we may not register as each other's civil partner. I understand that on signing this document we will be forming a civil partnership with each other".
"Surviving Civil Partner"
When one half of a civil partnership dies and the survivor wishes to enter a new civil partnership (or Marriage) the legal term to be used is "Surviving Civil Partner" (in place of the term widow or widower in the case of marriages).
The Civil Partnership Booklet
The Government has today launched a publicity campaign to raise awareness about the introduction of civil partnership in December. To read the booklet Click Here
Approved Venues update
The current position regarding the licensing of approved premises for civil partnership is as follows, an approval covers both marriage and civil partnership, the venue CAN choose to offer marriage OR civil partnership OR both.
Signing of the Civil Partnership
A ceremony for Civil Partnerships, compiled in conjunction with the Society of Registration Officers is now available.
READ THE CEREMONY
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31st Aug, Benefit rights
With the help of our friends, we have been able to put together a simple guide to pension and benefit rights. This document will change as and when we gain more information. Find out more
29th July, Updates on the Civil Partnership
Information for Employers
From 5 December this year employers will be required to offer employees who register a civil partnership the same benefits package given to married employees - this may be health insurance which is available to the employees spouse, or time off just before or after a wedding. There will also be changes to legislation regulating contracted out pension schemes.
From 5 December civil partners and cohabiting same-sex couples who don't register a civil partnership will be treated in the same way as married couples and cohabiting unmarried opposite-sex couples, so the incomes of both partners will be taken into account when calculating entitlement to Tax Credits. From that date (5 December), same-sex couples living together (whether or not they register a civil partnership) will have to notify the Tax Credits Office of their circumstances. .
Changing your name after you register
People who want to change their surname after they register a civil partnership, whether to take their civil partners name, or hyphenate, will be able to use a civil partnership certificate as evidence in the same way as married people can do so using their marriage certificate.
24th July, Updates on names and terms
Batchelor and Spinster
As of the 5th December, The terms Batchelor and Spinster will no longer exist for opposite sex couples and same sex couples
On the document that will be signed for the Civil Partnership the term "marital status" will be replaced with the term "condition"
22nd July, Civil Partnership costs at Register Offices
“The latest news to come from the registration service is the cost for the Civil Partnership signing held at a Register Office
You must give notice of your intent to hold a Civil Partnership Signing, which will cost £30 per person and must be given 15 days in advance
The fee for your signing will be £40 in total
Certificates cost are expected to be £3.50
Total cost should be £103.50
The fees for ceremonies are yet to be announced and will vary depending on the local authority. We will keep you posted as and when we hear"
15th July, Civil Partnership: Why only between 08.00 and 18.00?
Released today times for the Civil Partnership, between the hours of 8am and 6pm, Find out how this evolved
30th June, Draft Civil Partnership (Amendments to Registration Provisions) Order 2005. Find out more
7th June, updates to the amendments for the formation of e Civil Partnership
Registering your Civil Partnership
The arrangements for registering a civil partnership are outlined below, though certain details are to be set out in secondary legislation, including some which require Parliamentary ap pr oval. These will be laid before Parliament in the next couple of months.
· Some of these pr ocedures differ from those set out in the Civil Partnership Act. This is because the pr ovisions in the Act were drafted so as to be compatible with pr oposals for the reform of marriage law. These reforms have been postponed and therefore the pr ocedures for civil partnership are being adapted to be made compatible with the current pr ocedures for civil marriage.
What arrangements can I make for my civil partnership?
If you want to register a civil partnership, you will be able to give formal notice your of intention to do so from 5 December 2005. Before this date, you should contact your local register office to find out what pr ovisional arrangements you can make.
Some local authorities are already taking pr ovisional bookings whereas others are taking ex pr essions of interest from couples. It is up to local authorities to decide what arrangements to make with couples at this stage, however over the next few months it is expected that more and more places will start to take pr ovisional bookings as more details of the pr ocedures for registration become known.
Where can I register my civil partnership?
The range of places you can register your civil partnership will be broadly similar to those available for civil marriage.
Every local authority will be required to pr ovide a facility for the registration of a civil partnership. It will also be possible to register a civil partnership at a venue elsewhere, for example at a hotel, as long as they are ap pr oved for this purpose. It will be for you to ap pr oach a pr emises to make arrangements if you want to register the civil partnership there.
Any pr emises that are pr esently ap pr oved for marriage will, with effect from 5 December, be deemed to also be ap pr oved for the purposes of civil partnership registrations until the current ap pr oval is renewed or expires. After 5 December, pr emises will be ap pr oved for hosting both civil partnerships and marriages.
It will also be possible for a civil partnership to be registered at the residence of someone who is housebound or seriously ill and not expected to recover.
What formal requirements have to be met before registration can take place?
You and your partner will need to each give notice in the area(s) where you have resided for at least seven days. When you give notice, you will be asked to state where you wish the civil partnership registration to take place.
If a civil partnership is to be registered outside of the area of residence, you and your partner will still need to give notice in the area(s) where you live. When you each give notice, you will be asked to give the date and place where the civil partnership registration is to take place so these details will need to have been first agreed with the local authority where the registration is going to take place.
If you live in Brighton and your partner lives in Eastbourne, but you want to register a civil partnership in a country house hotel in Kent , you will have to give notice to your local register office in Brighton and your partner at Eastbourne register office . When you give this notice, you will both have to be able to give the date and the place where the civil partnership is to be registered, which means that you will have to have arranged this already with the venue and the Kent registration authority.
Who is eligible to register a civil partnership?
Two people who are:
· of the same sex
· over 18 (or able to pr ovide evidence of consent if 16 or 17)
· not in an existing marriage or existing civil partnership
not related to each other within the pr ohibited degrees of relationship.
Two people will be related to each other within the pr ohibited degrees of relationship if, for example, one of them is the other person's grandparent, parent, child or sibling.
What is the waiting period for civil partnership?
There will be a 15-day waiting period once each person has given notice of intention to register, before the civil partnership can be registered. There will be pr ocedures in place to reduce the 15-day waiting period in exceptional circumstances where there are compelling reasons to do so. For example, if one of the couple has an urgent overseas military posting to a dangerous area.
What is the waiting period if one of the couple has changed gender?
If one member of a married couple changes gender, under the pr ovisions of the Gender Recognition Act 2004, the marriage has to be annulled in order for a full gender recognition certificate to be issued. (This is the point at which the person legally changes gender). There will be pr ocedures to allow that couple to register a civil partnership as soon as the gender recognition certificate is issued, without being subject to the 15 day waiting period.
What time of day can a civil partnership be registered?
Civil partnerships can only be registered between 8am and 6pm (as is the case for marriage).
What happens if someone is seriously ill and not expected to recover?
Where one of the couple is seriously ill and not expected to recover, then the civil partnership may be registered at any time of day. The 15-day waiting period would also not apply.
The couple would need to pr ovide a certificate from a doctor stating that the person is seriously ill and not expected to recover, that the person cannot be moved to a place where civil partnership registrations normally take place and that they understand the nature and purpose of signing the Registrar General's licence.
What information will be made public about my civil partnership?
When you give notice of your intention to register a civil partnership, details from the notice will be available in a register office for public inspection (as for marriage) but the details will not include you or your partner's address.
It is important that these details are publicly available during the 15 day waiting period, to allow for objections to be made, just as is the case for marriage. The grounds for objection to a civil partnership are the same grounds for objection to marriage. For example, someone could object if they think the couple are not eligible to register a civil partnership.
What happens at a civil partnership registration?
A civil partnership will be registered once the couple has signed the civil partnership document in the pr esence of a registrar and two witnesses.
The exact format of this document is still being finalised. There will be words pr inted on the document which the couple will be able to say at the time of signing the document, though the exact words are still to be confirmed.
Can I have a ceremony?
You will be able to arrange a ceremony in addition to the signing of the legal documentation if you wish, but a ceremony is not required under the Act. It is up to you to decide. Local authorities might offer a ceremony but there are other organisations who also offer ceremonies too.
What will the whole process cost?
There will be fees charged for giving notice and for the civil partnership registration itself when this takes place on pr emises made available by a registration authority. The exact amounts have yet to be determined, but it is expected that they will be similar to those for marriage. Local authorities will set their own fees for civil partnerships which take place at an ap pr oved pr emises.
Can I use Welsh?
All forms used in Wales in connection with civil partnerships will be pr inted in both Welsh and English. It will be possible for these forms to be completed either in English or in Welsh and English, as for marriage.
Today 21st Feb 2005 - Civil Partnership dates announced
The first Civil Partnerships will take place before Christmas 2005, with the government announcing an official implementation date of December 5th.
Announced today to the delight of same-sex couples looking to make use of the new legislation, the Civil Partnership Act will come into force on the 5th, allowing for ceremonies to take place on 21st December.
The gap between the two dates allows for the 15-day waiting period required.
The Act will be the first time those same-sex couples who wish to sign up will have legal recognition and similar rights to married heterosexual couples.
Women and Equality minister Jacqui Smith said she was aware that many couples were "eager" to hear the official date.
"I know how much this legislation means to a great many same-sex couples across the country who are eager to finally get legal recognition for their relationships," she said today.
"This legislation is going to make a real difference to these couples and it demonstrates the Government's commitment to equality and social justice," she added.
Additionally, Ms Smith said the new laws would have a direct impact on British society and the place of lesbian and gay people within it.
"I hope this Act will help create a more equal society," she said, adding that "it opens the way to respect, recognition and justice for those who have been denied it for too long."
The Act will allow same-sex couples to have their relationship recognised at an official ceremony similar to a civil marriage.
Already, Register Officers in major cities - including Brighton, Newcastle, Liverpool, Birmingham and boroughs within London - have started to take expressions of interest from couples looking to have an early union.
The bill introducing Civil Partnership was passed in the Houses of Parliament last year, but the government said it would need a year to allow for implementation strategies.
At one point, many couples feared the new laws would be delayed until early 2006.
Gay rights group Stonewall celebrated the announcement today.
Update 25th Nov
The text of the Civil Partnership Act is now on-line, read more - be warned its a big file
Update 18th Nov
Royal Assent was signified at 21.44 this evening. The Act is now law. The main provisions are expected to come into force throughout the UK in about a year.
Update 17th Nov
It's finally here......
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. 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.
"We're elated," Summerskill said.
"Same-sex couples in long term relationships have waited too long to enjoy the same rights and responsibilities as married people.”
Update 16th Nov
What's next , The House of Lords schedule date is the 17th November, which we wait to see what the outcome will be.
If the House of Lords disagree with any of the amendments made in the House of Commons there will be some to-ing and fro-ing - but this has to be convergent: if either house rejects the same amendment outright twice in succession then the bill falls.
If the bill were not passed by the end of the current session it “could” be carried over to the next session, which starts on Tuesday 23rd November. By the end of this week the bill will have either fallen or been enacted. There's a high probability that it will be enacted on the 18th November, but this is by no means certain.
Update 9th Nov
The Civil Partnership Bill - Third Reading was Passed today by 389 to 47 at 19.13pm.
Update 27th Oct
Government adds more pension rights to Civil Partnership bill
Report states -
The amendments will be introduced at the Report Stage in the House of Commons, before being sent back to the House of Lords next month. If the Bill receives Royal Assent in this Parliament, it is expected to become law towards the end of 2005.
Update 13th Oct
Read the parliamentary brief and an overview on yesterdays second reading, reported in the Guardian today
In the Guardian today
Parliamentary Briefing supplied via Stonewall
Update 12th Oct
Civil Partnership - Second Reading in Parliament
Second Reading - passed by 426 votes to 49.
Programme Motion - passed by 337 votes to 105:
"Proceedings in the Standing Committee shall be brought to a conclusion on 21st October 2004."
Update 2nd Oct
Your help is needed now
Civil Partnership Bill The Bill gets its second reading on the 12 October in the House of Commons which is also the deadline for MP's' signatures, this is where we need your help
Click here and find out how to send a letter to your MP
The campaign, which has been organised by Unison , the public service union, aims to get at least 300 MP's to sign a petition to get pension discrimination kicked off the bill. It applies to public service pensions for civil servants including teachers and nurses.
Unison has drafted a letter for supporters of the bill to download from their website and send to their local MP - asking them to sign an Early Day Motion removing the discrimination from the final draft.
Currently the bill will rob survivors of a gay relationship of cash - because they would only be allowed to claim money from their deceased partner's pension from the moment the bill becomes law.
Married partners have access to their partner's pension from the moment they started paying contributions.
Carola Towle, national officer for gay and lesbian equality at Unison, said having access to a partner's pension was essential to have a better standard of living in later life.
“This is one of our most long running campaigns,” she explained.
“Lesbian and gay people are more isolated in old age because homophobia doesn't stop when you get old.
“Tony Blair has been going on about hard working families - well that is what we are as well.”
As the Pink Paper went to press 75 MPs had signed the Early Day Motion. Unison says it is determined to get 300 so the plea will be taken seriously by the government.
“Size matters,” said Towle. “They can ignore it if it is less than 75 signatures.”
Update 19th Sept
Blair delays gay marriage bill to give Paisley party chance to vote
Find out more
Update 16th Sept
While the information we gave on the 10th about the likely timing of the Civil Partnership Bill's second reading has again changed! The Second Reading is now scheduled to take place on Tuesday 12 October
Update 10th Sept
The House will sit on Thursday 16 September at 11.30am to discuss the Civil Partnership Bill
Update 9th Sept
The second reading of the Civil Partnership Bill in the House of Commons will probably take place in early November 2004. After that it will have its committee stage, which is when Baroness O'Cathain's wrecking amendment will probably be removed.
The Civil Partnership Bill : Background and debate
The Civil Partnership Bill : The detail legal implications
Update 4th May 2004
The Lords Grand Committee debate on the Civil Partnership Bill is
due to begin at 15.30 on the 10th May, with further sessions at
15.30 on Wednesday 12 May, 15.15 on Thursday 13 May and 15.30 on
Monday 17 May. Watch this space for further information.
Civil Partnership Bill
Take a look at the Government's Civil Partnerships Bill
announced on the 31st March 2004
Finally we are moving ever closer to recognition of same-sex couples'
relationships within a legal framework.
Same-sex couples are to be given the same legal rights as husbands
and wives under the Civil Partnerships Bill which gives gays and
lesbians in long-term relationships legal recognition for the first
the full Civil Partnership Bill to find out more
Let's not be complacent - it is still not passed as law so we
all should continue to support introduction of equality for same-sex