World Briefs

Posted on 14 Dec 2006 at 6:50pm
By Rex Wockner

After 1 year, records show 15,672 couples have formed civil partnerships in U.K.

More than 15,600 same-sex couples got hitched under the United Kingdom’s Civil Partnership Act between its start date in December 2005 and September 2006, officials reported Dec. 4.

The Office for National Statistics said there were 14,084 unions in England, 942 in Scotland, 537 in Wales and 109 in Northern Ireland.

A quarter of the ceremonies took place in London, and the unions are more popular among gay men than among lesbians. Male couples made up 62 percent of the partnerships in England, 57 percent in Scotland, 56 percent in Northern Ireland and 51 percent in Wales. There were a total of 9,572 male unions and 6,100 female unions during the reporting period.

People over 35 have been more likely to tie the knot than younger people. Only 5,927 of the 31,344 individuals who took the plunge were under 35 while 14,035 were age 35-49 and 11,382 were 50 or above.

The overall numbers are much higher than government officials predicted. According to a report in The Times, “More gay couples registered their partnerships in the first 10 months of the new law than were expected to have done so by 2030.”

Meanwhile, gay activist Peter Tatchell says there’s been a big downside to the Civil Partnership Act. Thousands of low-income same-sex couples have been plunged into poverty as a result of benefit rule changes introduced when the Civil Partnership Act became law, Tatchell said Dec. 6.

“Sudden, overnight changes in social security regulations … reclassified all cohabiting same-sex lovers as the equivalent of civil partners, ending individual assessment of their benefit entitlements and replacing it with joint assessment,” he said.

The changes affect all couples, registered or not, where one partner is on means-tested benefits and the other has an income. Previously, gay relationships were not officially acknowledged and each partner was assessed for benefits individually.

Tatchell said the change “has hit hard thousands of elderly, sick, unemployed, disabled and low-income same-sex partners. … Many have lost social security payments totaling [$11,777] a year.”

A civil partnership carries the same rights and obligations as a marriage within the U.K.

Police raid gay club in Pretoria as part of so-called crackdown on brothels

Police in Pretoria, South Africa, raided the members-only gay club Camp David on Nov. 17, local media reported.

Accompanied by reporters, the officers broke down two security doors, pointed guns at naked patrons, videotaped them, then forced them to lie on the floor.

Police said the raid was part of a crackdown on brothels, and that they found a package of white powder in a hallway.

Co-owner Gerhard Rissik said the officers also forced co-owner Daniel Hamman to open a safe, from which they confiscated DVDs and erectile-dysfunction drugs.

Everyone present was arrested, charged with public indecency and held in jail overnight, the reports said.

Thai military reclassifies gays, transgender people, but still won’t allow them to serve

Gays and transgender people will no longer be classified as “permanently mentally ill” by Thailand’s military but they still won’t be conscripted, because they have “sexual identity problems.”

The military changed the wording in response to complaints from gays and transgender people who said the reference to mental illness on their military records worked against them when applying for jobs.

All Thai men within certain age brackets are interviewed yearly to determine if they are fit to serve their two years of mandatory military service. Those who show up dressed as women reportedly are forced to strip before being declared permanently unfit.

Lutheran Church, dominate in Sweden, announces intentions to bless gay unions

Sweden’s dominant Lutheran Church announced Dec. 6 that it will offer blessings of same-sex registered partnerships starting in January.

Individual priests will be permitted to opt out of performing the ceremonies but, in such cases, the local church will be responsible for finding another priest to perform the task.

Sweden’s 1995 partnership law grants registered couples all rights and obligations of marriage.

Scottish Parliament legalizes adoptions by same-sex couples

Scotland’s Parliament legalized adoption by same-sex couples Dec. 7. The vote was 101-6 with six abstentions.

An attempt to exempt faith-based adoption agencies from having to consider same-sex couples was defeated. Lawmakers attempted to appease religious opponents by adding a clause requiring that those who adopt have formed “a stable family unit,” The Scotsman newspaper said.

Editorial assistance by Bill Kelley.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 15, 2006

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