UK To Allow Same-Sex Civil Unions Come December

February 21, 2005 ( - Same-sex couples in the United Kingdom will be allowed to enter into civil unions come December, a step that will give them access to some of the same tax and pension benefits as married couples.

According to the Associated Press, the Civil Partnership Bill – which was passed last year and gives same-sex couples the right to form legally binding partnerships – will take effect December 5. Couples will have to apply to their local register, wait 15 days, and then sign official partnership documents.

The move to allow same-sex couples will have far reaching effects in the UK. With 42,000 same-sex couples expected to be living in the UK by 2050 according to Department of Trade and Industry officials, the pension landscape will certainly be altered. Because of their new status, same-sex couples are allowed to collect their partner’s pension benefits, as well as avoid paying inheritance tax on a deceased partner’s house. The new status will also require divorced partners to provide maintenance for each other and for any children, according to the AP.

Nine European Union countries currently allow such unions. Denmark was the first to allow same-sex partnerships when it legislated such a move in 1989, according to the UK.

Other countries have been making similar moves, with the US taking a more conservative stance than most. Recently, Canada’s Supreme Court, under request from the leading Liberal party, has ruled that making same-sex marriages legal is allowed under the country’s constitution. A free vote – except for Cabinet members, who must vote with the Prime Minister in support – will take place after current debate is complete.

In the US, over a dozen states have approved the recognition of some form of domestic partnership for same-sex couples. Eleven, however, outlawed gay marriage in the federal election of November.