South West Lib Dem MEP Graham Watson is celebrating a hard won victory in the battle to secure equal rights for same sex British couples living in France.
Since August 2007, French couples in a Pacte Civil de Solidarité (PAC) have enjoyed the same rights in relation to tax and inheritance laws which had previously only applied to married couples. However, due to a legal anomaly, British civil partnerships were not recognised under French law, meaning couples living in France were liable for a 60% inheritance tax and were treated like any other unmarried couple.
Graham Watson pointed out the ridiculous situation that many people faced;
"Up until now, the practicality of French law has meant that British civil partners living in France would have to dissolve their partnership and enter into a PAC in order to secure the same rights as French couples. This violated the idea of European citizenship and equality, and something had to be done."
Watson was made aware of this absurdity by two former constituents, and asked the European Commission to press the French Government on the issue.
Ministers have now announced that British civil partnerships are recognised as equal to PACs, and reimbursements will be made to individuals who have made undue tax payments since August 2007.
Graham Watson was delighted at the news;
"Although it has taken far too long to get to this position, I am pleased that same-sex British couples can now rest assured that they have the same rights as a French couple.
"We can now focus our attention on tackling discrimination and, in some cases, downright homophobia in other areas of Europe. The EU has an important role to play in securing equality and we must push for tolerance in all member states.
"I am just disappointed that Tory MEPs have done the opposite, and used their position to support Section 28-type laws in places like Lithuania and Poland. The party have obviously not changed as much as the Conservative leader would have us believe."
Graham Watson MEP is an ardent campaigner for gay rights and, amongst other things, is continuing to campaign for an equalisation of the age of consent in Gibraltar.
Conservative MEPs recently voted against the condemnation of anti-gay legislation in Lithuania. See press release (http://www.sarahludfordmep.org.uk/news/001247/meps_condemn_lithuanias_section_28_law_but_tories_abstain.html) by Sarah Ludford MEP, Liberal Democrat European justice & human rights spokeswoman.
Tory MEP Roger Helmer has made these comments in relation to homosexual marriage;
"I am opposed to the concept of homosexual "marriage", on both semantic and social policy grounds."
"Many people naïvely argue that marriage is a private matter between two people, so it is up to them how they organise it. But it is not. Wherever the institution of marriage exists, it is a public contract between three parties - a man, a woman and society. Society recognises that marriage, and the nuclear family which may result, is fundamental to the stability and the future of the society itself."
"I think our Polish colleagues are right to vote against homosexual marriage, and why I would join them in doing so."
He also denies the existence of homophobia;
"And while we're mentioning semantic issues, let me point out that the neologism "homophobia" is not so much a word as a political agenda. In psychiatry, a phobia is defined as an irrational fear. I have yet to meet anyone who has an irrational fear of homosexuals, or of homosexuality. So to the extent that the word has any meaning at all, it describes something which simply does not exist. "Homophobia" is merely a propaganda device designed to denigrate and stigmatise those holding conventional opinions, which have been held by most people through most of recorded history. It is frightening evidence of the way in which political correctness is threatening our freedom. It is creating "thought crimes", where merely to hold a conventional opinion is seen, in itself, to be unacceptable and reprehensible. I'm sorry, but I don't buy it."
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