European court rules that man can’t retrospectively give pension rights to his same-sex partner

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A man who missed out on receiving pension rights from his same-sex partner has been denied retrospective access to the benefit by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).

The court ruled that Dr David Parris of Trinity College Dublin does not have the right to allow his same-sex partner to take his pension.

An earlier ruling from July went in favour of Parris, and this latest ruling from the CJEU comes as a surprise to campaigners who had hoped it would rule in the same way.

Current pension rules at Trinity College mean Parris would have had to enter a civil partnership before he turned 60.

He never entered a civil partnership because the law did not allow it in Ireland when he turned 60.

But the CJEU concluded that the 70-year-old had not been discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation or age.

It ruled that any couple same or opposite-sex is subject to the same rules to leave their pension to their partner.

The ruling stated because of that, there was no direct discrimination, and because the EU did not require Ireland to legalise same-sex marriage or civil partnerships before 2011, there was also no indirect discrimination.

Pinsent Masons pension expert Alistair Meeks told this is not the first time the court has had to “grapple with the changing social mores around same sex relationships”.

“Once again, it has chosen not to disrupt the social settlement in a member state. It resolutely refused to treat a civil partnership as the same as a marriage, thus avoiding any suggestion of discrimination on the ground of sexuality when someone who was ineligible for benefits as a civil partner would have been eligible if he had been married to a member of the opposite sex.

“Campaigners will be frustrated that the court has declined to set right retrospectively. Employers will be relieved that they will not see their pension costs increase. Meanwhile the question remains: to what extent should the courts intervene to give redress when society’s attitudes have moved on?”

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