The Civil Partnership Act 2004 received Royal Assent in 2004 and came into law in December 2005. The The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 came into force almost a year ago.
But I was tipped off yesterday that Manchester apparently continues to discriminate against same-sex couples in the granting of Housing and Council Tax benefits.
I found this hard to believe since Manchester is supposedly one of the most gay-friendly cities in the country. It’s annual Pride festivities rival London, and the TV series Queer As Folk was set there. But I checked the website of the GMeP (a Partnership of the 10 Metropolitan Authorities, the GM Strategic Health Authority, the GM Centre for Voluntary Organisations, GM Police, GMPTE, GM Fire and the Learning and Skills Council), and it seems it is true.
Question: Can I claim Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit?
Answer: Yes, you can claim Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit for you and your family. Your family includes you, your partner and your dependent children. A partner is someone you are married to, or someone you live with as if you are married to them. You are not classed as partners if your partner is the same sex as you. (my emphasis)
This is disgraceful and most probably illegal.
In contrast, the London borough of Islington says in answer to the same question:
Your family includes you, your partner and your dependent children. A partner is someone you are married to, or someone you live with as if you are married to them, or a civil partner or a person you live with as if you are civil partner.
Next, I decided to check a more conservative council to see if they were up to speed with the law. So, I checked out the Canterbury Council (because I used to live there, but also because the city is home to the odious Tory MP Julian Brazier, one of the most vocal opponents of gay equality, and the home turf of the Church of England, similarly hostile).
Nevertheless, the Canterbury council gave guidance on benefits for civil partners noting that partners had the same rights as married couples. Its page on Council Tax Benefits, does not contain a same-sex couples exclusion.
If Canterbury can get it right, what the hell is wrong with Manchester?