The Burden sisters’ unjust tax burden
Their case is summed up by Joyce Burden herself, who said: “If we were lesbians we would have all the rights in the world. But we are sisters, and it seems we have no rights at all.”
This is the appallingly unjust state of affairs we have in the United Kingdom. An elderly couple of siblings (the gender make-up is immaterial) who have lived together in Wiltshire all their lives have fewer rights than cohabiting homosexuals in a civil partnership. For these sisters, it means that when one of them dies the other will have to sell their £875,000 four-bedroom property in Marlborough in order to pay an inheritance tax bill of around £56,000.
Yet the European Court affirmed that the tax rights enjoyed by gay couples do not apply to cohabiting siblings, and they therefore have not suffered unfair discrimination. And this was a decisive judgement with a 15-2 majority. The judgement said: ‘The absence of such a legally-binding agreement between the applicants (the Burdens) rendered their relationship of cohabitation, despite its long duration, fundamentally different to that of a married or civil partnership couple."
Of course it is fundamentally different, but so is marriage from civil partnership, which the ECHR now conveniently lumps together.
It is curious indeed that the state now recognises a cohabiting same-sex couple in a loving (eros) relationship, but not a same-sex cohabiting couple in a loving (storge) relationship. And so erotic love trumps familial love, and the unconditional (agape) love of God is tested further still.
Well, Cranmer has an idea…
Since there is nothing in law which states that a same-sex civil partnership must involve genital activity - with the evident sheer impossibility of the state ever proving that such a union has ever been consummated - Cranmer exhorts these sisters to register their partnership through the usual channels, and see what the state does when two sisters apply for a civil partnership as ‘non-conjugal’ lesbians.
The publicity of their plight would be global, and Cranmer is 99.9% certain that the Conservative Party would step in and vow to end such injustices, and pledge itself to introduce an amendment to the Civil Partnership Bill which would recognise cohabiting brothers, sisters, or parents with grown-up children who care for them. Such a clause was originally moved by Edward Leigh MP in 2004, upon which the Conservative Party was split (on a free vote) by 63-34 and 43-39 at Third Reading.
A bit of whipping for such a popular cause would do Mr Cameron the world of good.