The right for same sex couples to have a Civil Partnership is a big step forward in the fight for LGBT liberation. Peter Sehmer argues this reform can’t solve the problem of homophobia in society.

No matter how many times you practice the question “Will you be my Civil Partner?” in front the mirror of your bathroom it will rarely sound half as romantic as asking for somebody’s hand in marriage. The fact is same sex marriages are still illegal in the UK. Instead, same-sex couples are given the option to have a civil partnership to gain the benefits granted to a married couple by the government.

The Civil Partnerships Act of 2004 came into force December 5th 2005, and by the end of 2009 more than 34,000 same-sex couples had entered into the agreement.

The intention of passing the law was to ensure that same sex couples are entitled to the same legal treatments applied to a straight marriage. This includes things like inheritance, pension provision, life assurance, and other financial matters. It means that when a gay man is ill in a UK hospital his civil partner has the same entitlements as a wife would have with her ill husband. Children can be adopted by same sex couples and upon dissolution of a civil partnership the same laws apply.

Although this was a huge step for homosexuals in the battle for equality there remains one crucial difference. Why can’t a same-sex couple call themselves married rather then civil partners?

One would assume that the government is trying to promote equality by allowing civil partnerships; however, by renaming a same sex marriage to a civil partnership the government is actually enforcing and promoting differentiation.

More often than not the importance of marriage for couples is to publicly celebrate a long term commitment to each other. By not allowing gay and lesbian couples to define their commitment as heterosexual couples do, Civil Partnerships are seen as a second-rate marriage and at best a bureaucratic formality.

The new Equalities Act 2010 seeks to “protect individuals from unfair treatment and promotes a fair and more equal society.” By legally defining the type of relationship a homosexual has, who is supposed to be treated equally, continues to promote division within the working class.

Another problem with the title is that it is not recognised internationally. Civil partnerships are specific to the UK; in other countries the civil partner status is not recognised. As laws in different countries lay out rules and rights a married couple has when it comes to hospital issues – each time such an issue occurs the validity of a civil partnership in that country could be questioned. The partner of a lesbian or gay man may not be granted the same rights as a wife when deciding what to do with their ill husband, simply because of the confusion related to the civil partnership title.

Although gay rights and equality has come a long way over the last few decades there is still a long way to go. Civil Partnership’s is a big step forward on the road to equality but was only won after many years of campaigning. Homophobia in society will not be challenged by reform like this, for example racism is illegal however Black, Asian and other minority groups are still discriminated against in society.

We are weak when we are divided. Homophobia will only be challenged by uniting with everyone in society, gay or straight, in movements that benefit the working class as a whole.