Because of the lack of legal recognition of same sex partnerships, lesbians and gay men face a wide variety of discrimination on many fronts.
Many pension schemes, including all public sector superannuation schemes, provide for a widow’s or widower’s pension if the pensioner dies before his or her spouse. In these schemes a gay or lesbian partner can never benefit no matter how long they have lived together. Other schemes provide a pension to a surviving dependant, including in some schemes a same-sex partner.
Employers often provide fringe benefits in respect of a husband or wife or heterosexual partner but refuse to provide the same benefits to same-sex partners. Besides pensions (above) examples include health insurance, life insurance, and cheap or free use of the employer’s services.
Married couples can transfer as much property as they like from one to the other without paying capital gains tax. They can also leave as much property as they like to each other in their will–no matter how big their estate their partner will not have to pay inheritance tax. Same-sex couples cannot do this
If a lesbian or gay man dies without leaving a will, their property passes according to the rules of intestacy–which normally means it goes to their closest blood relatives, not to their partner. Lesbians and gay men have been known to be thrown out of their home by their partner’s family because their partner died without leaving a will.
Unmarried couples are not allowed to adopt jointly. A lesbian partner cannot even adopt their own child in order to formalise the relationship between the child and the non-biological parent. The marriage requirement also makes it very difficult for same-sex couples to adopt other children, as couples are generally considered preferable to single adopters. Where they do succeed in adopting, only one of them becomes the legal parent.
Next of Kin
People who can be classed as next of kin are defined as being either those married to a person or close blood relatives. Same-sex partner are not deemed to be next of kin. This can cause problems if one partner is ill or dies–it is the next of kin who are consulted in hospital and next of kin who are entitled to make funeral arrangements. Powers of attorney can be used to gain some of the legal rights and responsibilities of a next of kin.
Married and unmarried heterosexual couples have the right to succeed to a council tenancy or private sector tenancy.