UK/EU - Pensions rights for same-sex partners have moved a step closer following a Court of Appeal ruling, gay campaigners believe. But lawyers claim the decision - which involves a tenancy agreement - will not apply to pensions.
Gay pressure group Stonewall believes the decision to allow Antonio Mendoza to continue a tenancy agreement taken out by his deceased partner will act as a turning point for same-sex partners who want the same pension rights as married couples.
The court said that under the Human Rights Act 1998 same-sex couples who cohabit have the same rights as married couples.
But Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner David Pollard disagreed.
Pollard – who is chairman of the Association of Pension Lawyers – said that although the case would increase pressure for non-married partners to get the same pension rights as spouses, it did not provide a solid legal case.
“It is pretty clear that the court was considering the position in relation to where the legislation already gave rights to opposite sex partners.
“It would be a pretty big step to try and extend this to the situation where rights are only given to spouses – such as pensions.”
He added that there was little sign so far that the Human Rights Act would apply to pensions, with the exception of contracting-out benefits for spouses.
The Mendoza ruling comes in the wake of draft EU legislation which could mean that schemes which fail to give comparable benefits to members with same-sex partners could be taken to court for discrimination.
The EU Discrimination Framework Directive draft regulations – issued last month – state that employers must grant the same pensions rights to same sex partners as other couples.
But there is still no obligation under these regulations to give common law partners comparable benefits to married dependants.
The legislation, if passed, will come into effect in December next year.
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