Backlash expected against government plans for same-sex partnerships
The government will today provoke criticism from traditionalists when it unveils plans to give gay and lesbian partners some of the same legal rights as married couples.
Many Christian lobby groups are not expected to focus on issues of justice but claim instead that the proposals will ìundermine marriageî.
This is despite the fact that the governmentís consultation paper will make a clear distinction between heterosexual marriage and long term same-sex relationships.
Homosexual partners are set to secure the same entitlements in areas such as life insurance, inheritance, property and pensions.
In a consultation paper ministers will propose a system where same sex couples can sign a partnership register. But the government will stress that the move does not amount to gay marriage.
The distinction between same-sex partnerships and married relationships is important to many theologians on all sides of the debate about sexuality, who point out that marriage is by definition a heterosexual relationship.
But, many argue, this does not preclude the recognition and acceptance in law of covenanted same-sex relationships. Indeed, many suggest that an injustice is being perpetrated when such relationships are not recognised.
The plans, which could be included in the Queen's Speech later this year, appear set to face stiff opposition in the House of Lords.
But those arguing for the rights of gay and lesbian people have long argued that denying homosexuals the right to next of kin status leaves many couples in limbo when one partner falls ill.
They have also argued that it is unjust to levy inheritance tax on a property when it transfers to a gay person following the death of a lifelong partner.
But critics point out that the government has failed to address the issue of unmarried heterosexual couples - who will still be denied the same right as married partners.
The Lib Dems welcomed the gay partnerships moved but questioned why it would not apply to straight couples.
"This step is long overdue. Liberal Democrats welcome the changes that will be made to inheritance and next of kin rights and pensions sharing for same sex couples," said Evan Harris.
"But it is typical that the government has only done the bare minimum. The decision to exclude opposite sex couples from claiming the rights conferred by civil partnerships will be a bitter disappointment to hundreds of thousands of heterosexual unmarried couples.î
"Civil partnership registration schemes established in London and Liverpool are for same sex and opposite sex couples.î
"The government should follow suit and legislate to give all unmarried couples the same rights."