EU Court of Justice: Same-sex partners must have same work benefits as married couples

Thursday, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) explained that under EU law, an employee who is in a same-sex civil partnership should receive the same benefits as foreseen for married employees—in case a civil partnership is the highest form of union they can access.

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A French man entering a registered partnership took his employer to court, because the latter refused providing him benefits which it provided to newlyweds.

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The benefits included special leave, and a pay bonus.

The case reached the Cour de cassation, the highest French court, which turned to the CJEU in Luxembourg for a preliminary ruling on the matter.

Preliminary rulings allow national courts to ask the CJEU how it would rule, would the case reach Luxembourg.

The CJEU explained that since registered partnerships were the only form of legal union available to the complainant at the time (France legalised marriage equality earlier this year), and they were a similar form of commitment as marriage, there were no legitimate grounds on which to provide benefits in one case, and not the other.

The CJEU said this would constitute discrimination under Directive 2000/78/EC, which prohibits discrimination on grounds of age, disability, sexual orientation or religion and belief in the field of employment.

Raül Romeva i Rueda MEP, Vice-President of the Intergroup on LGBT Rights reacted: “This preliminary ruling by our highest court is a positive, logical and humane step for all same-sex couples who’ve committed to one another in much the same way as a marriage.”

“The Court has now said that the unavailability of marriage to same-sex couples wasn’t reason enough to deny them the work benefits afforded to other families.”

Michael Cashman MEP, Co-President of the Intergroup on LGBT Rights added: “Today the court said that regardless of the type of union they are in, all couples deserve the same benefits at work.”

“This goes in the same direction as the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled in 2010 same sex couples indeed fall under the definition of “family life”.”

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