December 23, 2005
Volume 33
Issue 51

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Civil partnerships: Elton John exchanges vows with partner
Civil partnerships: Elton John exchanges vows with partner
By Peter Moore

LONDON - Hundreds of Gay and Lesbian couples exchanged vows in cities and towns across England and Wales Wednesday but their big day was overshadowed by the civil partnership of Elton John and David Furnish in Windsor.

The world television news crews and their satellite trucks were in place long before dawn. The paparazzi jostled for positions hours before that. The global media had booked every available hotel and guest room in the area.

The fans also began arriving in Windsor early.

The royal town is used to playing host to big events, the most recent was the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla, and police were taking the whole thing in stride. The cost of policing the event is estimated at about $20,000, and Windsor last week warned John and Furnish that the couple will be billed for the total cost.

Hundreds of fans and a handful of anti-Gay demonstrators were kept well behind a police line.

Even the infamous British bookies got involved in the affair. They took odds on everything from would either John or Furnish back out at the last minute, to what Elton would wear.

The rocker made someone a lot of money. He was in a simple black suit, a 50/1 long shot with bookmaking company William Hill. The odds that he would be in pink were 20/1, and 10/1 that he would wear blue.

Furnish was also in a black suit. The couple stopped for a moment to wave to the crowd and then entered the historic Guildhall.

In the same room where Charles and Camilla were married, Elton and David had to settle for a civil partnership.

Both marriage and partnerships have the same rights and responsibilities but Gays and Lesbians cannot call themselves married. The difference is critical for Gay leaders who point out the inequity in the law, but for non-Gays, especially the media, both are the same. The media has seldom used the phrase' civil partnership', opting instead to call the unions 'marriage'.

"Elton's and David's big day is also a big day for the whole Lesbian and Gay community," said Peter Tatchell of the Gay human rights group OutRage.

"Although civil partnerships fall short of the gold standard of marriage, they are another giant stride towards Gay freedom. "Global media coverage of the civil partnership of David and Elton will raise international awareness about Gay partnership rights. It will give hope and inspiration to millions of Lesbians and Gay men worldwide who seek acceptance, respect and human rights.

The ceremony was over in a half hour. The couple's parents looked on as John and Furnish signed the registry.

Then it was off to the reception at John's estate just outside Windsor where two giant white tents had been erected on the grounds.

The star-studded reception reportedly cost the couple $1.75 million.

Nearly 800 other same-sex couples exchanged vows Wednesday in England and Wales under less of a media spotlight.

In an op-ed article for Wednesday's Independent, Prime Minister Tony Blair hailed the civil partnership law as a major advancement.

"This landmark measure ends the situation where same sex relationships were invisible in the eyes of the law, denied any recognition of their commitment," Blair wrote.

"It gives Gay and Lesbian couples who register their relationship the same safeguards over inheritance, insurance and employment and pension benefits as married couples. Joint financial arrangements over housing and pension provision will be recognized in law. No longer will same sex couples who have decided to share their lives fear that they will be denied a say over the partner's medical treatment or find themselves denied a home if their partner dies."

The first civil partnerships in the UK began Monday in Northern Ireland. Tuesday, Scotland held its first unions.

Courtesy of Used with permission.

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The Beauty of Freedom
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