Push to recognise British civil partnerships across Europe

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Foreign minister Chris Bryant said today that the British Foreign Office was encouraging other countries in the EU to recognise civil partnerships performed in the UK.

Speaking at a Foreign Office event this afternoon, the minister for Europe said that it was “utterly bonkers” that in some cases, gay couples were forced to divorce and then re-register their relationships in their new countries if they move abroad in order to retain their rights and benefits.

Fourteen EU states have gay marriage or civil partnerships. Two are in the process of establishing rights, while 11 do not offer any form of marriage equality.

The event was co-hosted by Stonewall, in light of its work in employment diversity and attended by a number of companies who performed highly on its latest diversity index.

Chief executive Ben Summerskill told PinkNews.co.uk that encouraging more countries to recognise British civil partnerships meant that gay employees in large, multinational firms would find it easier to travel for their work and avoid having their careers held back.

He added that the charity was working to ensure that if an employee cannot take a posting, for example, in a country where homosexuality is illegal, he or she would not compromise their career development.

Mr Bryant, who is gay, said that only two of the 11 EU countries without gay marriage or civil partnerships had allowed British consulates to carry out civil partnerships.

Britain allows its embassies to carry out the ceremonies even in countries that do not allow gay marriage or civil partnerships, so long as local officials give permission.

Latvia and Bulgaria told the Foreign Office they were happy to allow these ceremonies to go ahead, while Mr Bryant said work was being done to persuade the other nine to agree.

In October, it was revealed that 500 British couples had chosen to have their ceremonies in British embassies, and Mr Bryant revealed that the majority of these had taken place in Australia.

Speaking about gay rights around the world, Mr Bryant singled out Poland, Jamaica and Russia in particular as countries which have poor records on gay rights.

In Russia, a country whose capital Moscow has repeatedly banned gay Pride marches, he said that policy and public attitudes “need to change” and called city’s mayor Yuri Luzkov’s stance on gay rights “disgraceful”.

Mr Bryant also dismissed suggestions that Britain should cut aid to countries where gays and lesbians face violence and death, such as Uganda.

He told PinkNews.co.uk: “Of course that seems attractive at first sight, but the thing is, why is development there? It’s to rescue people out of poverty, it’s to make sure kids get to go to school, it’s to make sure that women are treated equally with men and it’s to put food in people’s tummies.

“And I think its wrong to use that for politics, for political reasons. So I’d prefer to make the argument of yes, we’re supporting you, but we also have expectations.”