The Isle of Man, home to the world’s oldest parliament, is now the newest country to grant same-sex couples the right to civil partnerships. And after years of campaigning for marriage rights for same-sex couples in the Isle of Man, Humanists are celebrating their success.

Gay and lesbian couples gain the right to civil partnership thanks to a new law signed in the Tynwald, the Manx parliament, on March 15, 2011. As with civil partnerships in the UK, the new law gives civil partners the same rights as married couples regarding inheritance, pensions and tax allowances. The law comes into effect on 6 April 2011.

Muriel Garland, chair of the Isle of Man Freethinkers, told IHEU that “I welcome the Civil Partnership Legislation on the Isle of Man but regret that it has taken so long to achieve.” It’s been more than five years since the Isle of Man Freethinkers first submitted testimony to the Tynwald supporting the right to same sex marriage.

Located in the Irish Sea, midway between Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland, the Isle of Man is a self-governing British dependency with its own laws. Its parliament, the Tynwald, has governed the island since 979, making it the oldest continuously serving parliament in the world. The Isle of Man is not part of the UK, or the European Union, and has been slower than the UK in liberalizing its socially conservative laws. Homosexuality was not decriminalized until 1992.

77-year-old gay Humanist activist George Broadhead, said: “This is great news. As a Manxman myself who was born on the Isle of Man in 1933 and realized I was gay at school in the 1940s, I know only too well what a frightful homophobic place it was -  much of it stemming from religious bigotry.”

Broadhead now lives in England, where he serves as secretary of the Pink Triangle Trust, an IHEU member organization devoted to gay and Humanist concerns.  “Activists on the Island itself and the rest of the UK launched a campaign to get the law decriminalized and I am proud to have played a part in this. I entered into a civil partnership in the UK in 2006 and I am delighted that my fellow Manx gays are now able to do the same,” said Broadhead.

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