The United Kingdom on Wednesday joined a growing family of European countries that recognize same-sex couples. The British House of Lords has approved the Civil Partnership Bill, which will give registered same-sex partners in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland nearly all the rights and responsibilities enjoyed by heterosexual married couples. Observers expect Scotland to adopt the law as well.
"We are glad to see the increase in the numbers of European countries recognizing same-sex partnerships," said Patricia Prendiville, executive director of the International Lesbian and Gay Association. "This clearly demonstrates that same-sex relationships are not only becoming socially acceptable in Europe, but Europe is also moving toward true democracy where all forms of discriminations are removed."
The Civil Partnership Bill will now become the Civil Partnership Act. The first ceremonies are expected to occur next fall. In the meantime, the country's tax and legal codes will be tweaked to include same-sex couples.
ILGA officials said they have hopes that the U.K. development will also influence votes in Ireland, Hungary, and Spain, where the issue of legal recognition of same-sex partnerships is being debated.