OutRage! the gay rights group led by human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell claims that gay couples may see a reduction in state benefits as a result of the Civil Partnership Act. However, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) say this is equality in action.

Tatchell says that all cohabiting same-sex couples will experience a reduction in state benefits, as a side effect the new Civil Partnership Act. He claims that even couples that don’t want a civil partnership and have not registered their relationship will face cuts.

They also claim that same sex friends who live together and are not in a relationship will have to prove that they are not in a relationship to ensure that their benefits do not get cut.

At present, straight couples that are unmarried and on benefits are treated by the DWP as if they were in a ‘common law’ marriage. They are therefore treated as a single-family unit and are not entitled to separate benefits or pensions.

As of the 5th December 2005, gay couples that are not in a relationship will also be considered to be in a ‘common law’ marriage and will also loose the entitlement to be considered for separate benefits or pensions.

Peter Tatchell, speaking to PinkNews.co.uk, claims that the “civil partnerships scheme is designed to benefit rich couples, not poor gay people who are on benefits”. He claimed that in previous government reforms, existing claims are honoured and that gay couples that currently receive benefits should retain their current level of benefits.

A spokeswoman for David Blunkett, the Work and Pensions Secretary told PinkNews.co.uk, “this is not going to be a witch-hunt of gay men and women. It’s simply making the situation equal for same sex and opposite sex couples.”

The spokeswoman added, “the act requires us to treat same sex couples in the same way as opposite sex couples, this is equality in action.”

The DWP claim that there will not be a requirement for same sex flat mates to prove that they are not in a relationship in the same way that opposite sex flatmates are not forced to prove that they are not a couple.

The spokesperson for David Blunkett added, “Depending on the benefit they receive, they could be entitled to additional money for their partner such as careers allowance. Any extra cost benefits such as Disability Living Allowance will not be affected. But income related benefits, like Income Support, could be reduced or stopped This mirrors the treatment of opposite sex couples who live together but choose not to marry.”