Gay man fights for pension rights
After a gruelling 3 year court battle, Tuesday marked an emotional defeat for a gay man fighting for equal pension rights for his husband.
Mr Walker initiated court proceedings in 2012 in a bid to address matters of equality for civil partners and same sex spouses. The court was asked to decide on whether his husband (having formed a civil partnership in 2006 which has since been converted into a marriage) should be afforded the same pension rights that a wife would enjoy if he was in a heterosexual relationship.
Three Judges unanimously ruled against Mr Walker on the basis he retired from employment in 2003 – 2 years before civil partnerships were introduced and recognised by the law. Therefore, in the event Mr Walker were to die, his husband would not have the equivalent heterosexual spousal entitlement to benefit from the pension that had accrued over 23 years and valued at £83,000 on his death. On the surface the decision may seem bold and arguably inherently unfair but the courts have been clear, it all boils down to dates.
The Civil Partnership Act 2004 currently operates to ensure that pension benefits are provided equally to civil partners and married couples alike. Unfortunately, in Mr Walker’s case, the court was not prepared to bridge the gap, and declared that the laws introduced by the Civil Partnership Act 2004 could not apply retrospectively.
The decision serves as a stark reminder of the historical inequalities faced by same sex couples.
Maguire Family Law has a wealth of experience dealing with the dissolution of civil partnership and same sex marriages and welcomed the introduction of legislation. As specialist family solicitors, it is important to understand that the breakdown or dissolution of civil partnerships is similar but different to a divorce. The importance of seeking legal advice cannot be underestimated most especially when it comes down to ensuring financial issues are resolved fairly and smoothly. There may also be children to consider including dealing with the arrangements in terms of where the children live.
Regrettably, we cannot turn back time to address the inequalities throughout history and Mr Walker has clearly fallen victim to such inequality. However, bearing in mind the law currently in force, the significance of obtaining quality legal advice on the breakdown of a relationship is critical.