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Issues - Gender bias - Gay Marriage Bill

Gay marriage bill 'wrecked' in Lords

Michael White and Sarah Hall
Friday June 25, 2004
The Guardian

The government's civil partnership bill to sanction same-sex unions was thrown into confusion last night after a cross-party coalition of peers and bishops voted to extend the bill's benefits to a wide range of people who live together in a caring family relationship.
Ministers and most gay lobbying groups were furious at what they saw as wrecking tactics supported by Lords Tebbit and Parkinson, as well as some homophobic clerics. They called the amendment "unworkable". The government chief whip, Lord Grocott, promised to send the bill to the Commons quickly so the change can be reversed.
That may not be easy. With an election looming the parliament acts cannot be threatened to ensure that MPs prevail. The acts cannot be used against bills which are introduced in the Lords, as this one was.
Supporters of the amendment, which was backed by 91 Tory peers and 43 crossbenchers, and was won by 148 votes to 130, argued that the bill was unjust and discriminatory, because it looked after the interests of same sex couples only, giving them the same tax and pension rights as married couples. Sons and daughters who made sacrifices to look after parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents deserved the same rights when the elderly relative died, the bill's opponents said.
Stonewall, the mainstream gay lobby group, said: "We're desperately disappointed. It's a number of years since we have heard peers referring openly to 'unnatural sexual practices' and 'hijacking' of the word gay. Sadly, it suggests that making provisions for family carers was not the only motive for attempting to amend the bill."
But Peter Tatchell of Outrage said he applauded the amendment because it ended an injustice to a group of people who deserved to share the benefits, which extend to next-of-kin rights such as hospital access and funeral rights.
"The Lords should be applauded for extending partnership rights to carers," he argued - but should have gone further to included heterosexual couples.
Critics such as Lord Lester, the Liberal Democrat peer who introduced the idea of registering civil partnerships in a private member's bill two years ago, shared the government's dismay. They said the bill was utterly changed and would take years to sort out.
Accusing his opponents of "the most blatant hypocrisy in pretending they have changed to a modern, enlightened party", Lord Lester said: "What they have done is seek to destroy the central purpose of the bill under the guise of giving rights to others and it's complete humbug done for electoral purposes."
Labour peer Lord Alli said the amendments were "a figleaf" to enable those opposed to the bill's purpose to fight it. "This amendment is ill conceived and does nothing other than undermine the purpose of the bill," he said.
SOURCE: http://politics.guardian.co.uk/homeaffairs/story/0,,1246942,00.html

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