Gay and Lesbian Couples - your rights

The Civil Partnership Act 2004 was passed on 18th November 2004 and came into effect on 5th December 2005.

This Act gives same sex couples the same legal rights as married couples. These rights include pension and property rights as well as parental rights. The Act allows same sex couples to receive joint state pensions and benefits and recognises their rights under inheritance law as well as their rights to claim compensation on the death of a partner.

However, same sex couples must first register their commitment by taking part in a civil ceremony, (there is no religious ceremony). This involves signing an official document at a Registry Office in front of a Registrar and two witnesses.

This is not the same as a marriage ceremony, but is a process whereby the commitment of the couple to each other is recognised and it is intended to mirror a marriage contract as far as possible.

It is important to note that the rights brought in by the Civil Partnership Act 2004 cannot be backdated to before the Act and so only accrue after the Act.

Regarding pensions - state final-salary schemes will pay survivor's benefits, but they will only count years of service from 1988 and onwards. This means that lesbian & gay couples have the potential to lose a significant amount of benefit from these pension schemes.

For private pensions you should check your particular scheme. Some private schemes only count survivor benefits for surviving partners from the date the Act came into force onwards. However, many count all the available years of service, giving the full and same potential as married hetrosexual couples.

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