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Supreme Court rules gay couples have equal pension rights

The Supreme Court has ruled that gay couples have the same rights to pension death benefits as heterosexual couples in a landmark case.

 
Supreme Court rules gay couples have equal pension rights

The Supreme Court has ruled that gay couples have the same rights to pension death benefits as heterosexual couples in a landmark case.

John Walker has been in a long running legal battle to let his husband inherit the same percentage of his defined benefit (DB) pension that a female partner would be entitled to.

Currently an exemption in the 2010 Equality Act allows companies in occupational pension schemes to limit pension benefits for surviving same sex spouses, to benefits accrued since 2005, when the Civil Partnership Act came in. This means that companies do not have to pay out the full pension benefits to a civil partner in a same sex marriage on pensions accrued before 2005.

Walker saw his case to allow his male partner to receive the same pension death benefits as a female would receive rejected by the Court of Appeal last year.

He then took the case to the Supreme Court which has now overturned the Court of Appeal’s decision.

‘The Supreme Court unanimously allows Mr Walker’s appeal and makes a declaration that (i) paragraph 18 of Schedule 9 to the Equality Act 2010 is incompatible with EU law and must be disapplied and (ii) Mr Walker’s husband is entitled on his death to a spouse’s pension, provided they remain married,’ the Supreme Court judgement said.

The reason for the judgement was that if a member state of the EU changes its laws for marriage status of same-sex couples, then ‘it is directly discriminatory contrary to the Framework Directive for an employer to treat a same-sex partner who is in such a partnership less favourably than an opposite-sex spouse’.

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