EU court grants welfare rights to same-sex partners
12.12.13 @ 18:40
BRUSSELS - Workers in civil partnerships are entitled to the same benefits as married couples, the European Court of Justice has ruled, in a case that could have a profound impact on employment contracts and welfare regimes across the bloc.
In a judgement on Thursday (12 December), the Luxembourg-based court found that denying equal rights to benefits amounted to discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
The ruling comes in response to a case lodged in 2012 by Frederic Hay, a French bank worker with Credit Agricole. Hay brought the case after being denied extra days of leave and a salary bonus given to newly-wed employees, despite entering a civil solidarity pact (PAC) with his partner in 2007.
PACs were introduced in 1999 to give legal recognition to same-sex couples but did not offer the same benefits as to married couples.
Same-sex marriage did not become possible in France until earlier this year, when the French parliament adopted legislation on the issue despite protests from some church groups.
In a statement, the Court said that the failure of the collective agreement to offer identical benefits to same-sex couples who were not able to marry "gives rise to direct discrimination based on sexual orientation."
"The situation of persons who marry and that of persons of the same sex who cannot enter into marriage and therefore conclude a PAC is comparable for the purpose of the grant of the benefits in question," it added.
"Today the Court said that regardless of the type of union they are in, all couples deserve the same benefits at work," said Michael Cashman, the Co-President of the European Parliament Intergroup on LGBT Rights, following the ruling.
"This goes in the same direction as the European Court of Human Rights which ruled in 2010 same-sex couples indeed fall under the definition of "family life," he told this website.
In 2010, the European Court of Human Rights accepted gay relationships as a form of "family life" as part of its judgement in the Kopf vs. Austria case.