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LGBT+ rights

Most of the issues, advice and policies relating to later life apply to everyone equally, but there are some things that affect lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT+) people differently – and some things might just need special consideration.

What are my rights regarding LGBT+ relationships?

If you'd like to, you and your partner can get married or become civil partners. Both are wonderful ways to publicly celebrate your love for one another. Getting married or forming a civil partnership also gives you greater legal rights in areas such as property, medical care and inheritance, and can provide increased security for both of you in later life, or if one of you dies.


You can choose to have either a civil or religious marriage ceremony. However, it’s worth noting that not all faith organisations will marry same-sex couples – and they’re not legally obliged to.

If you and your partner are already in a civil partnership, you can convert this into a marriage if you want to.

Civil partnerships

In practical terms, civil partnership grants you almost all the same rights and responsibilities as marriage.

A civil partnership is created when two people sign a civil partnership document in the presence of a registrar and witnesses. The ceremony can take place in a registry office or other registered premises, such as a hotel. It can also be conducted in a religious building, such as a church or synagogue, if they agree to it – but the ceremony itself can’t have religious content.

Once you've registered a civil partnership, you and your partner can be referred to as ‘civil partners’.

What are my rights regarding healthcare?

Healthcare services have a duty to provide care that's fair and equal. But if you've faced discrimination in the past, it’s understandable to worry that it could happen again.

NHS services

Every GP surgery should have a policy on equality and diversity, which you can ask to see when registering as a patient – or at any time afterwards.

Any information you share with NHS staff is confidential and there are strict laws to ensure the security of health records.

If you’re treated unfairly by a health service because of your sexual orientation or gender identity, you can make a complaint.

Find out more about making a complaint about health and care services

What are my housing options?

If you're finding it more difficult to manage at home, you might want to think about your housing options. For example, you could look into home adaptations to make where you live safer and more comfortable, or you might want to think about moving into sheltered housing or a care home.

There are very few housing options specifically for older LGBT+ people in the UK. However, you're entitled to ask managers and staff members questions to find out more about their attitudes. 

All staff should be aware of the issues affecting LGBT+ people. You could also ask how the home accommodates relationships and whether they have a code of practice on privacy.

Find out more about housing options in later life

What are my rights to my partner's tenancy?

If you live in your partner's rented property, you might be able to get your name added to the tenancy. You shouldn’t need to be married or in a civil partnership to do this.

It might be easier to get your name added to a tenancy if you live in a council or housing association property – but check the terms of the contract and the landlord’s policies to see what they say.

If your partner dies and you were joint tenants, the tenancy should automatically transfer to you. If your partner was the sole tenant, the rules depend on the type of tenancy they had. This can get complicated –  seek impartial advice from your local Age UK or Citizens Advice if you’re not sure.

Contact Citizens Advice for impartial advice about your tenancy rights

If you and your partner didn’t get married or register a civil partnership, you might need to provide evidence of your relationship, such as joint accounts or bills and being registered on the electoral roll at the same address.

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What are my rights regarding money and finances

If you're in a relationship, you might wonder how that can affect your finances, from pensions to benefits.

Can I claim my spouse or civil partner's pension?

  • State Pension is based on someone's own National Insurance contributions. In general, you won't be able to claim on your spouse or civil partner’s contributions, either at retirement or if you’re widowed or divorced. However, if you reached State Pension age on or before 5 April 2016 and you don’t have enough National Insurance contributions in your own right, you might qualify for a basic State Pension under the old State Pension system based on your spouse or civil partner’s National Insurance contributions.
  • Private pensions work slightly differently. You’re entitled to a survivor’s pension from your spouse or civil partner’s occupational pension if they die. However, if you're a same-sex couple, workplace pension schemes only have to grant survivor’s benefits to you based on your partner's contributions from 2005 onwards. This is in line with the law, but it means you might be entitled to less money than heterosexual couples.

Private pension schemes aren’t legally required to extend survivor benefits to unmarried or unregistered partners – but you can nominate someone to benefit from your pension when you die.

How are my benefits affected if I have a partner? 

For certain benefits, if you live with your partner you'll be treated as a couple, even if you're not married or in a civil partnership. 

This might reduce the amount of money you get from means-tested benefits such as Pension Credit, Universal Credit, Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support, because your partner’s income is included as part of the assessment.

However, it won’t reduce:

If you receive any means-tested benefits, you need to let the office that pays them know that you have a spouse, civil partner or that you’re living with a partner. If you don’t, it could be seen as fraudulent and you could have to pay back any money you've been overpaid.

What happens if my partner dies? 

Civil partners and same-sex spouses register the death of their partner in the same way as heterosexual married couples and are entitled to Bereavement Support Payment (BSP).

Eligibility for BSP has been extended to unmarried couples with dependent children. You can get in touch with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Bereavement Service to check eligibility or to make a claim on 0800 151 2012.

Find out more about recent changes to BSP

Are you entitled to extra money?

Do you know what benefits you're entitled to? Our online benefits calculator can help you quickly and easily find out what you could be claiming.

What are my rights regarding protection from discrimination?

Sadly, discrimination is something many LGBT+ people still experience. However, there are laws in place to protect you, and lots of organisations that can offer help and support.

What's the law on discrimination?

The Equality Act 2010 makes it illegal to discriminate against people with ‘protected characteristics’. These characteristics include:

  • age
  • sex
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • sexual orientation.

The Act covers you at work and when you're accessing goods and services – for instance, in shops, hotels, healthcare settings and care homes. It means that an organisation can't refuse you services or treat you worse than others because of your sexual orientation or gender identity.

If you have a complaint, you must first go through the organisation’s standard complaints process – for example, writing to the manager. If you’re unhappy with the response you get, you might need to seek further advice about how to take your case forward, depending on the organisation.

What can I do if I've been discriminated against?

It's important to remember that the law's on your side. If a crime is motivated by homophobia or transphobia, the police can take this into account and it can be used in sentencing.

Phone icon We're here to help

We offer support through our free advice line on 0800 678 1602. Lines are open 8am-7pm, 365 days a year. We also have specialist advisers at over 120 local Age UKs.

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Last updated: Apr 26 2024

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