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Joyce and Sybil Burden – born in 1918 and 1925 – have spent decades fighting British rules which mean that when one of them dies, the other will face a large inheritance tax bill and may be forced to sell their home in Wiltshire, southern England.
The sisters took their case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg – prompted by the introduction of new British rights for gay and lesbian couples – but lost by a majority of four to three in a judgment last December. They are now appealing that ruling.
Under the 2004 UK Civil Partnership Act, gay and lesbian couples won the same rights as married heterosexual couples to be able to pass property tax free between partners. But the rights do not cover cohabiting family members.
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Law of Unintended Consequences much? The UK passed their Civil Partnership act allowing unmarried gay cohabitants the same rights as married straights. And now some cohabitants want that right to extend to them. This is sort of a damned if you do, damned if you don’t moment for whoever decides this. They could be throwing an elderly woman out of her family home or they could set a precedent for some really weird laws to follow. We suppose that the two sisters could just get married. They wouldn’t have to change their driver’s licenses. That's probably against the law over there.