Legal recognition of relationships has dramatically changed in the UK and across most western countries. With an urge for equality and to recognise same-sex relationships, the government first introduced civil partnerships for same-sex couples in 2005 and subsequently same sex-couples could legally marry from 2014.
In December 2019, civil partnerships were opened up to all couples in England and Wales following the legal campaign by Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, which culminated in the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision that differentiating between same-sex and opposite-sex couples was discriminatory.
Now all couples are on an equal footing with a choice about how to formalise their relationship. For many, traditional marriage is no longer desirable for religious or societal reasons. Some of our clients do not want to re-marry following a difficult divorce, but see civil partnership as a suitable alternative to legally formalise their relationship.
There is no need to exchange vows for a civil partnership, or to be in a sexual relationship, so friends could even become civil partners in order to take advantage of the legal and tax protection on offer.
People in long-term relationships often think they are ‘common law husband and wife’. However, this is a dangerous and mistaken assumption. There is no such thing as a ‘common law marriage’ and until there is a change to cohabitation laws, cohabitants do not have the same legal rights as married couples/civil partners.
Civil partners are entitled to the same property, pension and next-of-kin rights as married couples, as well as the following inheritance and tax benefits:
Inheritance Tax (“IHT”)
There is no IHT due on estates left to a civil partner as the spouse exemption can be claimed. If a cohabitant inherits their partner’s estate, 40% tax is payable on assets over £325,000 (the current nil rate band).
If someone dies without a will, the surviving civil partner will automatically inherit under the intestacy rules. A cohabitant won’t inherit under the intestacy rules unless they are left a legacy under a will.
Capital Gains Tax (“CGT”)
Transfers of assets between civil partners pass free of CGT as they can claim the spouse exemption provided they are living together. In contrast, transfers between cohabitants are subject to CGT.
One disadvantage of marrying/entering into a civil partnership is that couples can only nominate one main residence for principal private residence relief (“PPR”) when selling their main home. Cohabitants do not need to jointly nominate and so could claim PPR on two separate properties.
Civil partners can transfer 10% of their unused personal allowance using the Married Couples Allowance. This is normally useful when one partner is a low earner and has some personal allowance remaining which can be used by a higher tax rate payer. This is not available to couples who are not married/civil partners.
Stamp Duty Land Tax (“SDLT”)
There is 3% SDLT payable on second homes or investment properties. A disadvantage of marriage/civil partnership is that the couple is treated as a single unit, so if one partner already owns property and the other partner purchases a property for the first time, there will still be 3% SDLT payable. Cohabitants are treated as separate entities for purchasing purposes.
As we enter a new decade with this welcome change to the law, there is still reluctance from the Church of England who recently issued guidance stating that those in civil partnerships should be in ‘sexually abstinent friendships’. Regardless of such comments, civil partnerships remain a popular option for those who identify as LGBTQ, and are now also available for heterosexuals who dislike the religious and societal connotations of marriage. Finally all couples have access to the same tax benefits/entitlements that married couples have traditionally enjoyed.
Sameena Munir (she/her)
Latest blogs & news
The visibility of the “B” in our LGBTQ+ umbrella is marked every year on 23 September. At Kingsley Napley, we are proud to have bisexual members of our LGBTQ+ and Allies Network and strive for everyone to feel like they can be themselves and bring their whole selves to work. Outside KN, and in this year alone, Robin has come out as bisexual in the new Batman comic, more awareness has been raised about bisexuality with celebrities, such as Megan Fox, Lily Cole, speaking out and there is more representation of bisexual people in mainstream shows, such as Sex Education, Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
Trans adults with full decision-making capacity have the freedom to secure hormonal and surgical interventions to align their bodies with the physical attributes typical of the gender with which they identify (a process known as “transitioning”). However, for those who lack capacity, the involvement of others who are responsible for making decisions on their behalf is required, and the position can be complex as a result. This blog explores the approach to making decisions relating to transitioning on behalf of protected trans people, applying the best interests test and guidance from case law, and discussing the practicalities for decision-makers.
When I told some of my friends I was writing a piece about drag activism, their reaction was almost unanimous…
"Oh, but, is there much to say?"
That's when I realised that drag queens, for many, are more synonymous with big hair and lip-syncing pop hits rather than political consciousness and activism. You can certainly understand the reason for this - we have been totally spoiled in recent years with the explosion of Ru Paul’s Drag Race around the world - the make-up, talents and confidence being a feast for the eyes (and the soul). But we cannot minimise the political importance of Mama Ru’s creation. Who could forget numbers such as “Shady Politics”; the discussions of gay conversion therapy while applying make-up; and Bob the Drag Queen describing his arrest during a 2011 marriage equality protest? Not to mention Nancy Pelosi sashaying into the All Stars season…
Coming out is an extremely personal journey and will be unique to each person. It takes a lot of courage to come out and a person may have to repeatedly do this in their personal and professional lives. Statistics show that 46% of people who identify as lesbian, gay and bisexual and 47% of people who identify as trans feel comfortable to discuss their orientation or gender identity.
How can you put the spotlight on intersectionality to remind others that, even within the LGBTQ+ community, not everyone is treated equal?
Are you proud of who you are, your journey and the person that you’ve become? Do you truly wear your heart on your sleeve? For some, being open and honest about who we are (which includes our gender identity or sexuality) does not come easily and can be extremely hard. It can be even tougher at work, and for those that hide their true self, the energy expenditure is endless. That survival cost of energy makes you less productive, or even worse still, it has a detrimental impact on your mental and physical health.
I am a trans woman who has recently embarked on her transition. Having only taken my first steps on this journey, I am acutely aware when writing this that I have much to learn about myself, about being trans, and about the diverse LGBTQ+ family that I now find myself part of. However, there is one theme that I feel is important to discuss as we celebrate Pride in 2021.
Three years on, the UK Government is still ‘’dragging its feet’’ about banning gay conversion therapy.
Following on from my colleague Sameena Munir’s blog ‘’pray the gay away: cull conversion therapy worldwide’’, the issue of gay conversion therapy dominates contemporary conversations surrounding LGBT politics and legislation in the UK, but the Government has failed to deliver on its promise to ban it.
"They will say I’m pushing an agenda. But the truth is, I am.” - The rise of queer artists and the importance of visibility
For two weeks during Pride month, Kingsley Napley are publishing a series of blogs to celebrate Pride and highlight LGBTQ+ issues from home and abroad.
It’s been 9 years since R&B artist Frank Ocean headed off rumours about his particular pronoun usage in the album Channel Orange by posting on Tumblr that his first love had been a man. Since then, the momentum for the openness and success of queer artists has continued to gather pace, and LGBTQ+ representation in the arts and mainstream media is as wide as it has ever been. This rise has however raised important questions about pigeonholing queer artists, and perhaps most interestingly whether they must always shoulder the responsibility of ‘pushing the agenda’.
In February this year, I attended a virtual talk held by the InterLaw Diversity Forum for LGBT+ History Month. The speakers featured individuals working in the legal sector and each discussed their experience of coming out as trans or non-binary at work. It feels an apt lesson given this year’s Pride theme: Visibility, Unity and Equality.
In January 2020, I was fortunate enough to give birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy. As far as I know, I am the first partner at Kingsley Napley (although certainly not the first employee) who has a baby who is lucky enough to have two mums. News of my pregnancy was met with overwhelming support from my colleagues. That support continues to this very day, and my wife and I remain truly grateful for the kindness that has been shown to us. However, since falling pregnant I have learnt that not all workplaces are as supportive to same-sex parents as mine. The concept of two mums or two dads starting a family is something that some people still struggle to get their heads around. So this year, for our KN Pride blog series, I have decided to explain the questions, that speaking from my own experience, it is not helpful to say to same-sex parents.
Tomorrow, global organisations across the world are celebrating Global Pride, and I wanted to write to say how much it means to us at Kingsley Napley to celebrate Pride and to support our LGBTQ colleagues.
On sitting down to write this blog, I was a little embarrassed. When you actually take the time to think about drafting legal documents in a way that is gender neutral, it seems to me that the question isn’t why do this, but why not?
In 2012 we formed an LGBTQ* & Allies network at Kingsley Napley (KN). I’m ashamed to say that the impetus to form this network came not from within, but from Scott, a new joiner who upon his arrival was surprised, and critical (rightly so) to find that no such network existed at KN.
The UK spouse visa has been the subject of frequent criticism and has rarely been out of the news since the rules surrounding it were completely changed in 2012. This is predominantly as a result of the stringent and often exclusionary financial requirements imposed. However, when you take a look at the basic relationship requirements imposed by this route, it is exclusionary in an unexpectedly discriminatory way.
This Sunday marks International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. On this day, over 130 countries around the world draw attention to the various forms of discrimination and violence that the LGBTQ community continue to experience. It serves as a reminder each year of the work which is still needed to achieve LGBTQ equality. David Sleight, a Partner and ally, at Kingsley Napley shares his experience below.
Now is a more important time than ever to be a visible ally to LGBTQ people in the workplace. Discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation continues to take place, often with disastrous ramifications for individuals and businesses.
The current government lockdown is making everyone aware of their living arrangements. Relationships are being put under new pressures and the current emotional and financial impact of the virus may be causing additional stresses in a relationship. It is a sensible time to make sure you understand how you own your property and the implications of such ownership.
There are countless instances of LGBT+ individuals being stigmatised and discriminated against throughout history, including in criminal law. In particular, a number of sexual acts between men have historically been criminalised. This homophobic legislation was compounded by an insidious approach to investigations, which targeted men who were believed to be gay, leading to a large number of men being criminalised, with all of the consequences that a conviction brings, for behaviour that should never have been illegal in the first place.
On the eve of the new decade, 31 December 2019, the first mixed-sex couples officially entered into civil partnerships, granting them the same legal protections as in marriage.
When you cast your mind back to last summer, you may have hazy memories of enjoying an aperol spritz during the heat wave, listening to Lewis Capaldi on every radio station, or your attempts to desperately avoid buying plastic bottles and single use cups.