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I AM surprised there has been no reaction to Dianne Paterson’s article on cohabiting couples’ lack of rights (Friends of The Scotsman, 14 October). But her solution of a lawyer’s agreement, prior to separation or death, will surely be no more attractive to them (or one of them) than a form of civil ceremony.

More radical change is needed. All religious references should be excluded from the Civil Partnership Act; it should be extended to heterosexuals; it should also be extended to siblings to enable them, for example, to transfer the family home to their survivor free of inheritance tax; it should be specifically for two people, excluding polygamy and polyandry; and in its grounds for separation, it should define consummation and adultery in homosexual terms, which current and proposed legislation evade. The reformed act would then replace current civil weddings but maintain their existing rights. It would also replace religious weddings as far as the law was concerned (as in many European countries), but would not prevent couples from also having a religious ceremony.

Couples would also be free to “merely” cohabit as at present with no rights other than those which concern any children. And finally, for those unfortunate cohabitees whose partners refuse them even a civil partnership, the Lysistrata option would remain to concentrate the mind!

John Birkett

St Andrews, Fife

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