‘Gay man wins Supreme Court case on equal pension rights.’
A landmark ruling has conceded pension equality for same-sex couples.
John Walker has won a five-year legal battle to provide his husband with equal pension rights in a landmark discrimination case at the Supreme Court. The momentous judgement will undoubtedly benefit the thousands of couples in similar circumstances.
On the 12th July of this year the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Mr Walker’s favour that an exemption in the Equality Act 2010 allowing employers to exclude same sex partners from spousal benefits paid into pension funds before the Civil Partnership Act 2004 was discriminatory, and in breach of equality laws.
Mr Walker was told by his employer’s pension scheme that should he die, his husband would not receive the same survivorship benefits he would have been certain to enjoy if he had been a woman. Benefits he would receive would not include contributions made before the Civil Partnership Act 2004, leaving his husband with only a few hundred pounds a year. Had he been married to a woman this figure would have stood at £45,000 per year – a substantially larger figure.
The human rights organisation Liberty who represented Mr Walker to challenge the exemption argued that denying equal pension rights was a matter of discrimination on the grounds of his sexual orientation, and a breach of EU equality law.
Delivering the judgment, Lord Kerr relied upon an EU framework directive from 2000 guaranteeing gender equality under employment law stating; “the salary paid to Mr Walker throughout his working life was precisely the same as that which would have been paid to a heterosexual man. There was no reason for the company to anticipate that it would not become liable to pay a survivor’s pension to his lawful spouse”. A ruling from the UK’s highest court means the provision no longer stands, and companies taking advantage of the exemption herewith will be breaking the law.
Welcoming the decision Emma Norton, Liberty lawyer acting for Mr Walker, said: “We are delighted the Supreme Court recognised this pernicious little provision for what it was – discrimination against gay people, pure and simple”.
Mr Walker agreed; “I am absolutely thrilled at today’s ruling, which is a victory for basic fairness and decency. Finally this absurd injustice has been consigned to the history books – and my husband and I can now get on with enjoying the rest of our lives together”
Mr Walker’s victory is a welcome and timely clarification of the law that has the potential to dramatically change the lives of many same-sex couples. It signifies another step forward towards full equality for LGBTQ+ people.
For further information and advice regarding any of the issues discussed within this article, please contact Emery Johnson Astills on 0116 255 4855.