Following the publication of the draft Universal Credit Regulations, I have been looking at the rules defining couples. Under the new rules, couples are being required to claim jointly, and neither has any secrets from the other. Couples are defined in the Welfare Reform Act 2012, s.39, as follows:
- “(1) In this Part “couple” means—
- (a) a man and woman who are married to each other and are members of the same household;
- (b) a man and woman who are not married to each other but are living together as husband and wife;
- (c) two people of the same sex who are civil partners of each other and are members of the same household;
- (d) two people of the same sex who are not civil partners of each other but are living together as civil partners.
(2) For the purposes of this section, two people of the same sex are to be treated as living together as if they were civil partners if, and only if, they would be treated as living together as husband and wife were they of opposite sexes.”
I was intrigued by the description of people in same sex relationships as “living together as civil partners” when they are not civil partners. When the legislation governing civil partnership was introduced, the government went out of its way to emphasise that it was not a form of marriage. Civil partnership was deliberately defined in terms of public commitment, and strongly distinguished from marriage. Now we find it treated in the same terms as “living together as husband and wife”. Neither definition, of course, explains directly what this means.