This page contains news for
the period Monday, October 11, 1999 through Sunday, October 17, 1999.
<< October 1999 >>
Friday, October 15, 1999
British House of Lords drops pension
plan for unmarried couples
According to a story published today by Planet Out,
British activists were profoundly disappointed on October 11 when a motion in the House of
Lords to extend pension rights to survivors of unmarried couples -- both heterosexual and
same-gender -- was dropped by the Government on grounds of costs.
A survey by the National Association of Pension Funds found that 39%
of private sector pension plans already pay death benefits to surviving partners of gay
and lesbian couples, but that only 16% of public sector plans did so. The Rainbow Research
Project examined 49 private pension plans that gave equal benefits and found they reported
doing so was neither very costly nor difficult to administer.
After the proposed amendment to the Pension Welfare
Reform Bill introduced by Lady Turner of Camden was dropped, proponents of the measure
promised to put pressure on the government to provide detailed information on the
calculation of the costs of extending scheme benefits to unmarried partners.
British study says lack of social support
network contributes to higher suicide rates
A report published today by the BBC news cites a new study
which concluded that reasons for suicide are often complex, but lack of a support network
can push people over the edge.
The study found that geographical areas with high levels of
social upheaval and people living alone have more suicides than economically deprived
regions. This contradicted previous research which had suggested that poverty - defined by
unemployment, poor housing and car ownership -- was a big risk factor for suicide.
The new report, released by the University of Bristol, says
areas where people live alone or are unmarried, move their place of residence frequently,
and live in private rented accommodation have higher rates of suicide.
There may be a number of factors operating when it comes to
higher suicide rates, according to Dr. David Gunnell, who led the research. "Suicide
is very complex, unlike an illness like lung cancer where smoking is clearly a high risk
factor. It can be linked to loss of a job, physical or mental illness or lack of social
support, for example. It is not straightforward," he stated.
Some key factors include a tendency to have no friends, to
live in a rented accommodation, to move frequently, and failure to vote.
Thursday, October 14, 1999
Scandinavians have half their children out
Reuters news service published a summary of some of the key
findings released by the European Union's statistical office, Eurostat, in a new report
entitled "Statistical Eyes" on Europe.
One of its findings includes an observation that around half
of Scandinavian babies are now born out of wedlock, in comparison to Greece and Italy
where just three percent and eight percent respectively of all children are born to
France Gives Legal Protections to Unmarried
A story published today in the Washington Post reports that
France became the largest country in Europe, and the first nominally Roman Catholic one,
to grant comprehensive legal protections to unmarried couples, whether gay or
On a vote of 315 to 249, the National Assembly yesterday
pushed through legislation creating "civil solidarity pacts.''
As a result of the action, unmarried French couples,
including same-sex partners, will be able to register their unions at courthouses for the
first time next year and come away with most of the rights of traditional married couples.
Justice Minister Elisabeth Guigou said the law will
"offer a solution to 5 million people who live as couples without being
married." An estimated 4.4 million of them are heterosexual couples.
Under the legislation, after three years of cohabitation,
unmarried registered couples can file tax forms jointly and claim rights of married
couples such as simultaneous vacation time from employers and lighter inheritance taxes.
They will also be jointly liable for each other's debts.
The bill also makes separation easier. A partner who wants to
split from the other would be able simply to send a letter of separation to their partner
and to the court.
For a detailed explanation of
the requirements and benefits under this new law, as well as description of its historical
Ontario, Canada may miss same-sex
A story published today in the London Ontario Free Press
reports that the Ontario provincial government may not meet its court-ordered deadline to
recognize same-sex couples as family. The news was based on statements made by Ontario
Attorney General Jim Flaherty.
On May 20, 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada had ruled that
the federal constitution is violated when the government recognizes unmarried opposite-sex
couples as a family unit but does not similarly recognize same-sex couples for familial
"I think . . . if the legislature has not passed a bill
by Nov. 20, the alternative would be to ask the Supreme Court of Canada for more time to
give the province an opportunity to comply with the ruling," Flaherty told reporters
Flaherty said the difficulty in meeting the deadline stems
from the legal complexity of altering perhaps up to 70 statutes that deal with unmarried
"common law relationships." All of this must be done in a tight legislative
schedule that must produce first, second and third readings and then obtain royal assent.
"We respect the Constitution, as the premier has said,
and we intend to comply with the ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada," Flaherty
The minister said he should have something ready for the
legislative session that begins next week, but it's up to Parliament to ensure the
deadline is met.
Wednesday, October 13, 1999
New French law to protect cohabiting couples
An article published today in the London Times predicted that
the French parliament will pass a law this week giving legal status to unmarried couples.
As protesters staged a noisy demonstration outside the
Assemblée Nationale yesterday, conservative MPs mounted a futile final assault on the
so-called Civil Solidarity Pact (Pacs) law, which the paper said was certain to be adopted
by the Socialist-led majority.
Elisabeth Guigou, the Justice Minister, defended the new
statute by saying that it strengthened the family and "offered a solution to five
million people who live as couples without being married".
The proposal was denounced by the opposition as an assault on
marriage and by religious groups as "the death of the family" and "licensed
The Pacs law, which would take effect next year, enables
cohabiting couples to register their union "whatever their sex in order to organize
their common life". They will enjoy rights equal to married couples in income tax,
inheritance, housing and social welfare. However, the Pacs contract, which can be revoked
through a simple declaration, extends no rights to homosexual adoption or artificial
insemination, nor adds parental rights beyond those enjoyed by unmarried couples.
Supporters of the new law are upset by a condition that
requires couples to wait for three years from registering their partnership before
enjoying the financial benefits of a joint tax return.