By David Broder
The Civil Partnership Act coming in to force on 5 December comes with the pretensions of offering gay couples the same rights as married heterosexual couples. They will be able to take advantage of transferred pension rights and inheritance tax will be waived as it is for married couples.
However, Outrage! and the Leeds disabled LGB group Rainbow Ripples have revealed that many poorer LGB couples will lose out. While the government is making concessions to wealthier LGB people, those on low incomes or who are disabled or elderly could have their benefits cut.
For example, two LGB pensioners who had received individual pensions will be reassessed as a “civil partnership couple”, meaning that their income will drop by as much as a third. Equally, an LGB person on means-tested benefits will have to become financially dependent on their partner, if s/he has a strong income, since they will be assessed jointly.
Bizarrely LGB people may even have their benefits assessed jointly with other people who they live with — even if they are not in a sexual relationship with them. This is because the Government’s new definition of “living together as man and wife” relies on the organisation of your household rather than actual relationships.
LGB couples have no choice but to accept these changes to their benefits. Even if they do not want a civil partnership, they will be forced into being assessed for benefits as a civil partnership couple. This is a disaster for those people. Through no choice of their own they will not be able to uphold existing financial commitments, such as loans or rent.
For years welfare rights campaigners have argued that all individuals should be assessed for and receive benefits on an individual basis. We should reassert that demand.