The Christian Institute

News Release

House-sharers excluded from Government partnership plans

Two old ladies who live together must pretend to be lesbians if they want to overcome the legal hardships of their living arrangements. The Government’s ‘civil partnership’ Bill gives homosexual couples sweeping new legal rights and privileges. But the plans exclude family members who live together and other house-sharers. The Bill has its second reading in the House of Commons tomorrow (Tuesday 12 October).

The Government says the Bill will help same-sex couples overcome the legal hardships they face because they cannot marry. Legal hardships include not having next of kin rights, joint pension rights, and tenancy succession rights and not having exemptions from inheritance tax and Capital Gains Tax. The Christian Institute points out that there are other people who live together long-term who face the same legal hardships because they cannot marry – for example, two sisters or a son who looks after his infirm father (for more examples see below).

The 2001 census revealed only 80,000 people living in a same-sex couple household. But there were 4.6 million people, excluding students, living in a non-couple household, 59 times as many people than in same-sex couple households.

On 24 June, the House of Lords passed an amendment to the Civil Partnership Bill that extended the scheme to close family members who have been living together as adults for twelve years or more. The Government opposes the amendment and will seek to overturn it in the Commons. The Christian Institute opposes the Bill on principle, but believes that if it goes ahead it should apply to close family members who have been living together long-term.

Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, said today: “If the Government genuinely wants to help house-sharers who cannot marry to overcome legal hardships, why should same-sex couple be the only ones to benefit? Why should gays and lesbians be first in the queue? The reality is, the Government wants to give special legal recognition to homosexual relationships. This is ‘gay marriage’ in all but name. It is appalling that two old ladies will have to pretend to be lesbians if they want to take advantage of the scheme. If the Government is determined to go ahead with its plans, it should be consistent and not discriminate against other house-sharers.”

Examples of house-sharers excluded from the Government’s civil partnerships scheme:

  • A daughter gives up her well-paid job to care for her elderly and infirm mother for 15 years. She moves into her mother’s London home where the family has lived for generations. Her mother dies and the daughter inherits. She is then faced with a large bill for inheritance tax, which forces her to sell the family home and move out of London.
  • An elderly uncle moves into his niece’s house. He is dependent on her for everything. The niece has a routine operation, but dies owing to the negligence of the anaesthetist. The uncle is unable to sue the Health Authority, because they were not in a registered partnership.
  • Two sisters live together throughout their lives in a rented house. They share their possessions. One has a public sector pension. She dies, but her surviving sister can gain nothing from the pension.
  • Two elderly gentlemen, one of them disabled, live together for 15 years in a rented property, the one caring for the other. They do not register as partners, not wishing to be seen as lovers. The disabled man dies. His friend is forcibly evicted from the rented property, having no status as ‘partner’ or ‘family member’.
  • Two spinsters live together for 40 years but are excluded from the scheme, on account of their unwillingness to register as a lesbian couple. Twenty years ago, one of the spinsters bought the council house they were living in. Since then, it has increased in value beyond the inheritance tax threshold. The spinster who owns the house dies and the other has to sell the home to meet the tax bill.