Tuesday

24th Nov 2020

Gay couples should enjoy equal pension rights, says EU court

  • Same pensions as heterosexual couples, says EU court (Photo: ILGA-Europe)

Members of same-sex civil partnerships should enjoy the same pension rights as heterosexual married couples, EU's top court said on Tuesday (10 May) in a ruling which sets an important precedent for the lesbian and gay community.

"A supplementary retirement pension paid to a partner in a civil partnership, which is lower than that granted in a marriage, may constitute discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation," which is banned under EU law, the Luxembourg-based court said in its ruling.

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The case had been brought forward by Jurgen Romer, a German national who claimed he was discriminated against when his former employer, the City of Hamburg, refused to grant him a tax break available for married couples to his pension after he entered a civil partnership with his long-term partner.

EU judges found that Romer had been discriminated against under German law, as "the same obligations are incumbent on both registered life partners and married spouses," concluding that the two situations are "comparable."

Although it is non-binding, the ruling sets an important precedent for other EU member countries recognising civil partnerships or gay marriages, for instance France, the Czech Republic and Slovenia, where registered same-sex partners have mutual support obligations, but appear to be excluded from survivor's pensions.

Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden recognise gay marriage, whereas eleven other countries have legalised same-sex civil unions.

Martin Christensen from Europe's LGBTI umbrella organisation ILGA-Europe said that they welcome the verdict, as it "made it clear that as long as married or registered same-sex partners have legal duties towards supporting each other, they should be treated equally irrespective of specific differences between the institution of marriage and registered partnership."

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