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A conveniently gender-neutral word for a close, committed relationship between two people, whether or not it is recognised in some official way.
Not a "pretend family". Not a "pretend" anything. A reality.

Sadly in a way, we have now been together longer than some of our siblings have managed in their officially-sanctioned partnerships: so does this torpedo the favourite activist argument about 'social support from social forms'? If we can last so long without benefit of clergy (or advantage of registrar, to coin a phrase) does that mean we don't need a structure? I don't know. What I do know is that it would give me immense pride to be able to stand up in public and say "I love this man so much that I want to commit myself to spending the rest of my life with him."

Thank goodness for quietly progressive Belgium. The first step was when they decided to establish a new type of registered partnership for people who didn't want to marry. The logical next step was to remove the "two people of different gender" clause in the civil definition of marriage, making every right (and duty) apart from adoption open to same-sex couples. And about time too: surely everyone should have the chance to make that sort of commitment?

We have, at any rateā€¦ as citizens of this amiable, humane country, we were married in Vilvoorde on May 23 2008. The city council gave us two mugs with a picture of a Rik Poot statue, and gave everyone a drink after the ceremony.