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Civil Partnerships Bill supports fairness and inclusion

Letter from Westminster - 18 October 2004

Labour believes in creating a fairer and more inclusive society. Over the past few months I have described in this column how the Government is putting this core Labour ideal into practice - through Children's Centres and new schools; from Modern Apprenticeships and the minimum wage to action against domestic violence and progress in tackling pensioner poverty. So, last week we were able to take another important step forward by supporting the Civil Partnerships Bill.

At the moment, same-sex couples often face a range of humiliating, distressing and unnecessary problems simply because they are deprived of legal recognition of their relationship. As an example, years of commitment can count for nothing when it comes to making decisions about the care of a terminally ill partner. And, despite paying the same taxes and pension contributions as married colleagues, same-sex partners are not entitled to survivor pensions.

These are but two of the injustices that this Bill seeks to address. It contains measures to set up a new legal status of 'civil partnership', offering same-sex couples the opportunity to register their relationship and obtain a series of rights and responsibilities enabling them to better organise their lives together.

It sends out more profound messages too about the importance of stable and committed relationships to our society - whether expressed by marriage or civil partnership. By extending legal recognition to same-sex couples for the first time it also shows that we, as a nation, embrace a vision of equality in which lesbians and gay men are valued and respected as much as everyone else. As such, I believe it represents real progress towards the fairer and more inclusive society we are fighting for.

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