HOPEFULLY tonight's debate on the proposal for a civic register of couples will not produce a hysterical response from people who condemn those who live in active homosexual relationships.

The furore over gay clerics within the established Church makes it clear that there is still plenty of unhealthy prejudice against those who live in committed partnerships with somebody of their own sex.

The proposed register, which will have nothing to do with the Government's Civil Partnership Bill, will be a constructive sign if it goes through that this community is prepared to accept that gay couples have the right to live as they choose.

There is no reason why they, and heterosexual couples who choose not to marry, should not be able to formally declare and celebrate their partnerships.

Such public declarations of commitment are no threat to conventional matrimony. In fact they can only strengthen our society.

And it is good that the borough council is proposing a measure, which has already been adopted by other enlightened local authorities.