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Transgender UK woman wins pension court case

Written by gaytourism

ECJ rules in favour of trans pensioner. Photo: G Fessy, CJUE

A transgender woman who was denied access to her pension was discriminated against, the European Court of Justice has ruled.

The court heard that the woman, referred to as MB during the case, was refused the female state pension at 60 because she chose not to annul her marriage. The woman had decided to remain married for religious reasons.

Stairway to Justice, ECJ, Luxembourg. Photo: G Fessy, CJUE

But the ECJ ruled that someone who changes gender does not have to annul a marriage they entered into before that change, in order to receive their pension.

The woman’s lawyers – Jacqueline Mulryne of Arnold & Porter and Chris Stothers of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer – said they were “delighted” at the decision.

“After almost a decade, MB will finally be paid her pension and recognised as a woman by the government,” they said in a statement.

“This is a small decision but it has great importance in the move towards increased equality and respect.”

UK Gender Recognition Act requires marriage annulment

Under the UK’s 2004 Gender Recognition Act, trans people acquired the right to formally change their gender by obtaining a full ‘gender recognition certificate’. But in order to receive this certificate the person must first have their pre-existing marriage annulled.

In the UK, women born before 6 April 1950 can apply for a state pension at age 60, while men born before 6 December 1953 must wait until 65.

MB was born male in 1948, married in 1974 and had two children. She started living as a woman in 1991 and had gender reassignment surgery in 1995, but she didn’t apply for a gender recognition certificate.

She applied for a state pension when she turned 60 in May 2008, but was refused on the basis that legally she was still a man, and should therefore wait for the male pension at 65.

The UK Supreme Court couldn’t agree on the issue, so it was referred it to the EU Court of Justice for guidance.

The case will now return to the UK Supreme Court to apply the ruling, but BBC News reported that MB’s lawyers said they are ‘hopeful’ the Department for Work and Pensions will apply the ruling ‘without delay’.

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