The United Kingdom unveiled controversial plans Monday that would give same-sex couples the same
legal rights as married people. Under the proposals, gays and lesbians would be able to sign an official document of civil partnership at a registrar's office, giving them pension and property entitlements. The contracts would be available only to same-sex couples and not be set up as an alternative to heterosexual marriage--a position that was immediately attacked by a prominent gay rights campaigner as "heterophobic." The government's plans were set out in a consultation paper, with newspapers reporting that a bill containing the reforms could be introduced into Parliament this year.
"This is not about being PC but about bringing law and practice into line with the reality of people's lives," said Jacqui Smith, the government's deputy minister for women and equality, as she unveiled the
proposals. Smith added, "Same-sex couples often face a range of humiliating, distressing, and unnecessary problems because of a lack of legal recognition. Civil partnership registration would underline the inherent value of committed same-sex relationships. It would open the way to respect, recognition, and justice for those who have been denied it too long."
If the proposals are passed by Parliament, registered gay couples will be given next-of-kin rights in hospitals, the right to benefit from a deceased partner's pension, and exemption from inheritance tax on a partner's home.