How the Daily Mail selectively quotes in order to lie about attitudes to gay people

From today’s Daily Mail:

Most people still oppose gay marriage and the adoption of children by same-sex couples, a Government report revealed yesterday.

More than half believe homosexual marriages should not be allowed and two thirds think the adoption of children by same-sex couples should not have become legal nine years ago.

Unfortunately for the Mail, perhaps, the Office for National Statistics’ Population Trends Autumn 2011 is available to the public. And within the section concerned, Civil Partnerships Five Years On, we see that the information around which the Mail has hooked its “Look, look, Britain’s as homophobic as we’ve been telling you” hat comes from two 2006 Eurobarometer survey questions, included for cross-Europe comparison but not collated by the ONS:

Eurobarometer is run by TNS Opinion and Social on behalf of the European Commission. In 2006 two questions were asked to around a thousand respondents from each of the EU25 countries25. Given the small sample sizes for each country the results can only be indicative of the main differences and general ordering of countries.

(My emphasis.) So the ONS explicitly warns against using the Eurobarometer survey results in the way that the Mail has done.

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised. Just as we shouldn’t be surprised that the Mail has ignored other statistical information within the same report that shows that the proportion of the population that believes same-sex relationships to be wrong is substantially smaller than the proportion which doesn’t.

Update: Ruminations of an Englishman examines the original Eurobarometer and finds that while 45% disapproved of gay marriage, 46% actually agreed…

Meanwhile, the Pink Paper swallows the Daily Mail’s spin hook, line and sinker. They should be ashamed.

What does Denise Pfeiffer know?

At the beginning of this week, there were a spate of letters in the Guardian on the subject of civil partnerships. One of them nearly prompted me to writein response, and the only reason I didn’t was that a previous letter of mine on the same subject was printed just a couple of months ago. I did remember, though, the name of the letter’s author: Denise Pfeiffer. Well, with a surname like that it sticks in your head.

In today’s Evening Standard, along with a typically sensible and reasoned letter from Jonathan at, Denise Pfeiffer’s at it again. Now, as far as I’m aware, the letters page doesn’t go on the internet, so I’ve taken the liberty of transcribing it. Here it is, in full (although I suspect, from my own and Jonathan’s experience, that the Standard have edited it down for length):

The Government is giving homosexual couples the same legal rights, pension, immigration and tax benefits as married couples, but where does this leave heterosexual couples who do not want to go through the process of affirming commitment through a religious or a civil marriage?

What about spinsters and bachelors in sexless partnerships, or elderly same-sex relatives who have bought a house together and have looked after each other for years? Is the Government saying that these types of relationships shouldn’t receive the same legal rights as homosexual partnerships? The one thing gay civil partnerships have not brought about is equality.

Denise Pfeiffer, Leicester

It doesn’t take a genius to work out the answer to her first question. Where does it leave unmarried straight couples? Exactly where they were before. If they can marry, but choose not to, then they have a legal equality with gay couples who can choose to marry under the Civil Partnerships Act, but choose not to. It’s a choice. It’s fantastic. If you choose not to, then fine. But starting this week, for the first time, we get the same choice. Deal with it.

Terrance, as usual, says it best (although he’s the first to admit he’s reiterating Jonathan Rauch):

If people want to strengthen marriage, then it would be much more effective to let same-sex couples marry and send the same message to everyone: if you want the rights and priviledges of marriage, get married.

So, let’s be clear. [Straight unmarried couple] Madner and Schreiner, and couples like them aren’t losing any rights. They’re losing an alternative to marriage, but they still have the right to get marriage and enjoy the benefits thereof. They still have the priviledge of having more options in protecting their relationship than same-sex couples do.

This whole thing irks me. There is a whole coterie of people who rise up against gay couples getting any form of legal protections, and yet call themselves Christian. And yet, what they are doing is ensuring that people at their lowest ebb – when they or their loved one is ill, incapacitated, dying – are more vulnerable than they need to be. That’s not Christianity, that’s the complete opposite.

Incidentally, it turns out that Denise has her own Wikipedia entry! Rather coyly, she describes herself (oh come on, who else is going to write about her?) as “press officer for a UK media watchdog” – sounds really official, doesn’t it? Almost like she works for Ofcom or something. In actual fact, it’s MediaMarch – which Nick Barlow describes, quite aptly, as occupying “the part on the Venn diagram where Mediawatch and Christian Voice intersect”.

Civil partnerships: the fight’s not over

A plain language summary of the issues contained within the Government’s white paper on civil partnerships for same-sex partners. The consultation paper went on to form the basis of the Civil Partnerships Act, which came into law in 2005. Written for UK.

It’s been a long time coming, but it looks like we’re finally on the road to having legally recognised relationships between gay or lesbian couples.

The Government’s Women and Equality Unit, part of the Department of Trade and Industry, today unveiled its white paper, **Civil Partnership: A framework for the legal recognition of same-sex couples**. The consultation document outlines how the Government sees gay and lesbian couples’ rights being safeguarded and extended until they match those of married straight couples.

Under the proposals, which will affect England and Wales (with some knock-on effects in Scotland and Northern Ireland), couples would have to sign a civil partnership register, to be kept and maintained by the same council register offices that currently handle marriages. The bad news for anybody who’s signed one of the non-legally binding registers local councils have instigated around the country is that you’ll have to go through it all again: none of these registers will automatically get promoted to legal status. Which is a good thing, as there are so many rights and responsibilities attached to partnerships that we shouldn’t assume everybody who wanted to sign a decorative piece of paper would be happy signing one with strings attached. For those that do, however, there’ll be another license fee to pay.

The full document stretches to nearly 90 pages, and covers most of the common areas that we think of when discussing the disparities between married, straight couples and gay couples. But it also dispels some of the myths. For all the talk about ‘next-of-kin’ rights, particularly when one partner is taken ill, there is no such thing as the ‘next of kin’ in law. The paper notes that this causes much confusion, both for patients, their relatives and hospital staff. The Government are going to ensure guidance notes to NHS staff take account of same-sex relationships, but that’s not something that has to wait for a change in the law to take place.

Another issue the paper tackles head-on are people’s concerns that unmarried opposite-sex couples also have concerns over their own rights (the common perception of “common law”, like that of next of kin, being false). Quite correctly, in my view, it believes that the needs of unmarried couples, regardless of gender, are an entirely separate legal issue.

Whether it’s prison visiting rights, parental responsibility, or your rights should your partner die, basically if it’s available automatically to married couples, it will also be available to registered couples. The similarities extend to break-ups — dissolution of a civil partnership could end up as costly, both financially and emotionally, as divorce, and in exactly the same ways.

Indeed, most of the ramifications of a civil partnership scheme boil down to the same thing: money. If you and partner register your relationship, the state will assume that you pool your incomes and calculate benefit entitlements accordingly – just as they do for straight couples who marry.

One major difference will be in state pensions. Everything about this area of the law moves incredibly slowly. At the moment, current pension law is some of the most sexist legislation we have, dating back to the times when the husband went out and earned the pennies, while the wife stayed at home sprouting kids and cooking everybody’s dinner. Thankfully, that’s changing, but it means that gay and lesbian registered couples will only start achieving parity with married partners in 2010, with full equality across the board only achieved once state retirement ages equalise between men and women in 2020.

To all intents and purposes, the state will recognise you for what you probably already regard yourself – a family. Indeed, it’s incredibly gratifying to read the statement: **”The Government proposes that registered partners should be treated as a single family unit.”** None of this “pretended family relationship” nonsense that Section 28 tried to saddle us with: we’re real, we’re families. And about time, too.

* Originally published on [ UK](