EU court asked to decide British transgender pensions case

The UK’s Supreme Court has referred a case about transgender people’s state pension entitlement to the European Court of Justice.

Under UK law, women can retire earlier than men. The male and female state pension ages are already set to be equalised by 2020 – but under pre-existing rules, women were eligible to retire as much as five years sooner, at the age of 60.

A 68-year-old trans woman known as MB for legal reasons has brought a case to the UK Supreme Court this week, arguing her rights were violated as she was not permitted to retire at the female age.

MB began to live as a woman in 1991 and underwent gender confirmation surgery four years later. In April 2005 transgender people were granted legal recognition as their preferred gender if they obtained a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC).

However, MB was unable to do this as she was married, and the Gender Recognition Act would require her to annul her marriage in order to be granted a GRC.

In 2008, when MB applied for her state pension after she passed the retirement age of 60. However, her application was rejected on the grounds of her legal gender, and she was told to wait until the age of 65.

MB battled the decision, arguing it violated her human rights, and her case finally found its way to the UK Supreme Court this week.

But the court was unable to reach a decision on the case, and the issue was referred to the European Court of Justice.

The court ruled: “The Supreme Court is divided on the question, and in the absence of [European] Court of Justice authority directly in point considers that it cannot finally resolve the appeal without a reference to the Court of Justice.

“The question referred is whether Council Directive 79/7 EEC precludes the imposition in national law of a requirement that, in addition to satisfying the physical, social and psychological criteria for recognising a change of gender, a person who has changed gender must also be unmarried in order to qualify for a state retirement pension.”