The Court of Justice of the EU : married and registered partners must enjoy the same pension rights

On 10 May 2011, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) delivered its judgement in the case of Jürgen Römer v Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg which dealt with the issue of whether lower supplementary retirement pension for registered same-sex partners compared to married partners constituted unequal treatment.

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The CJEU ruled that registered same-sex partners must be treated equally to married partners and such pension fall under the meaning of ‘pay’ within the EU Employment Framework Directive (Dir 2000/78/EC).

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ILGA-Europe welcomes this judgement which confirms and reinforces the principle established in the case of Maruko (2008) whereby in all EU Member States where marriage is reserved for different-sex partners and a separate registered partnership law for same-sex couples exist, employment-related payments such as benefits under pension plans must be equal for same-sex registered partners and married partners. Difference of treatment between registered partners and married partners constitutes direct discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation.

The Court explains in the Römer judgement that the key question is whether or not registered partners “have [legal] duties towards each other, to support and care for one another and to contribute adequately to the common needs of the partnership by their work and from their property, as is the case between spouses”. It is not necessary to show that “national law generally and comprehensively treats registered […] partnership as legally equivalent to marriage”. The Römer judgment is likely to have repercussions in such EU Member States such as France, the Czech Republic and Slovenia, where registered same-sex partners have mutual support obligations, but appear to be excluded from survivor’s pensions.

Marin K.I. Christensen, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board, said:

“We welcome the Court of Justice of the European Union’s judgement as its reaffirmation of equal treatment of married different-sex partners and registered same-sex partners in the area regulated by the EU Employment Framework Directive. We also welcome that the Court made it clear that as long as married or registered same-sex partners have legal duties towards supporting each other, they should be treated equally irrespective of specific differences between the institution of marriage and registered partnership.”

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