Sisters speak out on injustice of forgotten families

Sisters who have lived together nearly all their lives have told The Christian Institute that the law is unjust against many people in similar family situations.

Catherine and Virginia Utley will have to sell their house when one of them dies because they are not exempted from Inheritance Tax.

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The sisters want the Government to take action to address the unfairness of the system which began with civil partnerships and has continued with same-sex marriage.


There have been a number of efforts to extend the legal benefits of civil partnerships to siblings, but politicians have rejected all of them.

Only same-sex couples can enter a civil partnership, leaving people in the Utleys’ situation – and many other family relationships – at a disadvantage.

The sisters said the problem emerged with the introduction of civil partnerships because prior to that marriage was the only union that provided certain legal advantages.


Catherine highlighted that blood relations were ignored and “were not given any of the rights which go with a civil partnership”.

this injustice must be put right

Catherine Utley

As a result, she continued, when one of them dies, the bereaved sister will “be left with an enormous burden of Inheritance Tax” which will mean she will have to sell the house to pay it.

Virginia said they are aware of other people in similar situations, giving an example of someone who looked after their brother for many years, but had to sell their house when he died because of the tax burden.

Less worthy relationship

“What is it about our relationship, the relationship that I have with my sister, which somehow falls short in their eyes?

“What is it that is less good, less worthy of encouragement about our relationship than the sort of partnerships which they do encourage”, Catherine asked.

MPs, including former Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC, are supporting the sisters. Grieve has said the current situation is “discriminatory and a serious mistake that needs to be corrected”.

The pair want to change the current system through Parliament, but say as a final resort that they would take the matter to court.


Explaining the reasons for any such legal action, Catherine said they would want to show that “platonic love also has a very important part to play in society”.

It is “absolutely crucial that no further time is wasted, that this injustice must be put right”, Catherine concluded.