Equality organisations have pledged to support same-sex married couples in challenging unequal treatment by occupational schemes.
The Marriage Bill, currently in its Commons committee stage, will allow schemes to treat same-sex married couples as though they are civil partners and limit their survivors' benefits to accrual from 2005 only (PP Online 11 February).
The Home Office claimed two thirds of schemes offer the same survivor benefits for married couples, civil partners and long-term unmarried couples, and that to force all funds to equalise benefits "would entail an unforeseen retrospective cost to schemes".
However, civil rights organisations have confirmed while they may not lobby MPs to amend the bill, they will take up cases where either civil partners or same-sex spouses challenge their schemes' unequal provisions.
Human rights organisation Liberty's policy officer Rachel Robinson said: "This bill is an historic moment for equality in Britain but Liberty is disappointed that it seeks to maintain a current inequality facing civil partners.
"Given that our client John Walker recently won his fight for equal pension benefits for his civil partner (PP Online 31 January) we were surprised to see such an extension of this discriminatory provision."
Robinson said Liberty is calling for a change to the "indefensible" clause in the bill, and added she expects future legal challenges if it passes in its current form.
"If the bill remains in its current form same-sex married couples will have to seek redress in the courts," she said.
"This represents on-going, direct discrimination and the courts have recognised as much."
Giving evidence in the Culture, Media and Sport committee on the bill, Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill said the gay equality organisation will not seek an amendment to the bill as it is unlikely the government will retrospectively legislate.
However, he said that every case it has been involved in where a civil partner has challenged their schemes' provisions, Stonewall has "persuaded" the scheme to change its terms, and suggested fighting the inequality for same-sex spouses through case law will be sufficient.
"We do not see a huge mischief that would ever have been put right by this bill," Summerskill added.
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