The UK’s current legal framework is failing unmarried couples and more should be done to protect their rights, leading human rights and civil liberties QC Lord Lester has claimed.
Speaking to gay and lesbian publication Pink News, The Liberal Democrat peer described the current Civil Partnerships Act as “extremely progressive” but said more should be done to protect unmarried couples, both gay and straight.
Lord Lester told the publication that his Cohabitation Bill, which reached the committee stage in April last year but ran out of time, would have helped the situation.
The Bill proposed giving unmarried people the same rights as married couples in the case of relationships ending due to separation or death.
He said: “There are a large number of straight couples who can’t or won’t marry, which leaves their children unprotected. It is absolutely essential that they should be protected.”
The Bill was opposed by legal academic Baroness Deech, who claimed it could lead to cases of blackmail involving former partners and ultimately undermine relationships.
However, when asked if he believed that marriage equality was now an achievable goal, Lord Lester said: “I would hope so, yes. It’s very, very important for gay couples – it’s a matter of symbolism.”
But he added: “I’m much more concerned at the moment with practicalities. People in common-law marriages are not protected. I care not only about gay couples but straight couples too.”
The Lord’s claims follow similar endorsements from the Liberal Democrat party this month stating that legally recognised marriages should become a reality for same-sex couples.
With support growing for increased equality for both straight and same-sex couples, it remains unclear whether such endorsements can change current legislation.
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