In 2003, after working for a company for more than 20 years, a former cavalry officer, John Walker, retired. He had made the same contributions to the company pension scheme as his heterosexual colleagues.
Mr Walker and his husband have been together since 1993. They entered into a civil partnership in January 2006. They later converted their civil partnership into a marriage.
Mr Walker wanted to ensure that his husband would receive the same benefits under the pension scheme as a wife would in a heterosexual marriage. The scheme sought to differentiate based on an exemption that potentially allowed employers to exclude same-sex partners from spousal benefits paid into a pension fund before December 2005, when civil partnerships became legal.
In 2015, the Court of Appeal ruled against Mr Walker.
However that decision has now been overturned by the Supreme Court in a ruling that declares the exemption upon which the company pension scheme relied was “incompatible with EU law and must be disapplied”. This means that Mr Walker’s husband is entitled on his death (so long as they remained married at that date) to a spouse’s pension. Consequently Mr Walker’s husband will become entitled to a pension of approximately £45,000 a year in place of around £1,000.
This decision is likely to impact on a significant number of same-sex marriages and is to be welcomed in narrowing the differences between same-sex and heterosexual marriages in the 21st century.
Of course this deals with only a narrow aspect of rights in same-sex relationships. If you would like to speak to an experienced family law solicitor about what rights you have before, during and after a civil partnership or marriage, call Farleys Solicitors on 0845 287 0939 or complete our online enquiry form.