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May 20th, 2013

Pensions equality: dry but important

By [email protected]

Political wrangling. That’s what’s going on in Westminster right now. The Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill is on its final trip through the House of Commons – and goodness, it’s causing a stir.

It’s all over the media. No.10 is making contradictory statements. MPs are being lobbied and counter-lobbied. And probably for one of the only times in their lives, people across the country are glued to BBC Parliament, waiting to find out if they’ll be granted the right to marry the men and women they love.

Among all the white noise, it’s these ordinary people who matter the most. While the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill is a huge step forward, it’s not perfect. There’s a nasty bit of discrimination left in it – pension companies will still be able treat you differently if your marriage isn’t ‘traditional’.

Imagine this: you pay into your pension your whole life, and you want to know your husband or wife will be provided for when you die. But simply because you’re married to someone of the same sex, employers and pension companies are allowed to pay out a tiny fraction of the amount they’d have to cough up to a mixed-sex couple.

In late 2012, John Walker took his pension provider to court. John is 61. He’s been with his partner for 20 years. If he dissolved his civil partnership and married a woman today, she’d be entitled to £41,000 per year if he died – but his pension scheme was only willing to give £500 per year to his long-term partner.

Today, MPs can stop this happening again. Amendment no. 49 , tabled by Dr Caroline Lucas MP, will be debated in a few hours. If enough MPs vote for it, pension companies will have to start treating every marriage equally. It’s a simple change, but one which would mean everything to the people affected.

Email your MP right now to tell them to vote the right way on the amendment. Ask them to pause for a minute, and to consider a small but important change to the bill which, at its heart, is purely about fairness. As marriage becomes equal, pension policy should too.

Here’s the link to email your MP, and to share via social media:


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