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With This Pen, I Thee Register
All people in this country should have access to all rights (including the right to marry the person of their choice), regardless of color, sex, how they like to have sex, and with which consenting adult. That said, as a person who doesn't believe in marriage or "marriage-privileging" (granting special rights only to married people), next on the agenda is rights for unmarried but committed partners of both heteros and homos, like those granted by filing a PACS (Pacte Civile De Solidarité), in France. For example, as Peter Tatchell writes:

Far more useful to most gay couples would be an Unmarried Partners Act, giving automatic legal rights to all unwed lovers, gay and straight. These rights could include acknowledgement as next-of-kin in emergencies like arrest or accident; joint guardianship of any children; life insurance pay-outs and inheritance of property on the death of a partner; and entitlement to company benefits that extend to employee's spouses, such as pension and health-care cover.

It is these practical rights - not marriage - that most lesbian and gay partners want. Providing such rights as a matter of course, without couples having to endure a state-approved ceremony to get them, would help vastly more same-sex lovers than gay marriage or registered partnerships.

One great virtue of an Unmarried Partners Act is its flexibility. The rights are automatic, but they have to be claimed. This 'opt in' system, allows partners to 'pic 'n' mix'. They can claim all of the rights, some of the rights, or none of the rights, depending on their needs. In contrast, couples in gay marriages and registered partnerships get lumbered with a full set of rights (and duties), whether they want them or not.

Under an Unmarried Partners Act, couples in a relationship of at least 12 months standing would be entitled to claim partnership rights (the one year qualifying period being advisable to prevent short-term, opportunistic lovers claiming their partner's property). Proof of eligibility would be a simple Letter of Partnership, signed by the couple and a person of professional standing (such as a lawyer or doctor), confirming that they had been partners for a year or more. This Letter of Partnership could be revoked at any time by either partner signing a Letter of Annulment witnessed by a professional.

In the event of one partner becoming mentally incapacitated or dying without having signed a Letter of Partnership, the other partner could still make a claim. However, to prevent people claiming to be partners when they are not, the relationship would have to be confirmed by two professionals and be backed up with documentary evidence.

There may be some people who, for whatever reason, do not want their lover to claim partnership rights, such as inheritance. They would be able to 'opt out' of any (or all) of the rights by specifying this in a will or affidavit, which would have legal precedence.

This Unmarried Partners Act is a modern, democratic form of partnership recognition: simple, egalitarian and flexible. Ensuring legal rights for all unwed couples, gay and straight, such legislation may not be as 'respectable' as gay marriage and registered partnerships, but it would be infinitely more beneficial.

Posted by aalkon at January 3, 2005 6:36 AM