Civil Partnerships: Should They Be Extended to Sibling Couples?

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cohabiting siblings

Civil Partnerships are a live issue at the moment given the Government’s step to consider allowing same sex couples to enter into them. In doing so this will afford cohabiting parties the same rights as are currently afforded to opposite-sex couples and married couples.

Some time ago a Conservative peer Lord Lexden introduced The Civil Partnership Act 2004 (Amendment) (Sibling Couple) Bill. He had personally raised this matter in Parliament in 2015. The Bill is currently going through Parliament and to date there is nothing to suggest this Bill will become law.

In short, the Bill states that there should be an extra category of people who can enter civil partnerships. This covers 2 persons who are considered siblings have lived together for more than 12 years since the date of registering the partnership and are over 30 years old.

This suggestion is controversial and would be a fundamental change to the existing law in the U.K that govern family relationships. The rationale behind the proposed amendment is one that deal with the injustice that is often caused to one couple of a sibling relationship (for example 2 sisters that have lived together for a number of years and own property together) if one dies and they are not afforded the same tax rights on inheritance that a spouse or civil partner would. Currently siblings are in the same position as cohabitees and unlike spouses are not entitled to inherit capital free from inheritance tax. Unlike cohabitees if a sibling dies intestate they may automatically inherit but their position is far weaker than that of a spouse or civil partner.

This Bill therefore represents a step towards dealing with an area of law that has an imbalance and is discriminatory to a certain group of people within society. If this becomes law, then there will be some parity at least between sibling cohabitees and civil partners (as long as those siblings are over 30 and have lived together continuously for 12 years). This then provides siblings who live together with certain rights when the relationship ends, particularly if one passes away.

This seems like a sensible consideration to deal with an area of unfairness in the law that if left unchanged will result in some people being unable to protect themselves financially simply because of the nature of their relationship and the choices they have made in their lives.

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