A gay man has won equal pensions rights in a landmark Supreme Court ruling

Oliver Gill
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The landmark ruling could be one of the last instances of domestic legislation being struck down by Europe (Source: Getty)

The Supreme Court has delivered a landmark ruling giving the husband of a gay man the same pension rights as a wife would receive.

John Walker, 66, challenged a Court of Appeal decision to support his former employer Innospec. The chemicals firm said it willrefuse to pay his pension to his husband because Walker's employment started before civil partnerships became legal in the UK.

In its unanimous decision, the judges used EU law to strike UK statute.

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Supreme Court judge Lord Kerr said: “The salary paid to Mr Walker throughout his working life was precisely the same as that which would have been paid to a heterosexual man.

"There was no reason for the company to anticipate that it would not become liable to pay a survivor’s pension to his lawful spouse. The date when that pension will come due, provided Mr Walker and his partner remain married and his partner does not predecease Mr Walker, is the time at which denial of a pension would amount to discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation.”

Last instances

John Gordon, a pensions lawyer at Ashursts, said the decision "could be one of the last instances of domestic legislation being struck down by Europe". He added concerns will remain that it could be overturned following the UK's exit from the EU.

However, Pinsent Masons pensions partner Alastair Meeks said it was "unlikely in practice that post-Brexit any government would seek to reverse this decision".

He added:

The Supreme Court has surfed on the fast-changing social currents to consign to the scrapheap a compromise established a dozen years ago on the introduction of civil partnerships.

At the time the compromise was not particularly remarked upon as unfair, but now it looks distinctly out of date to many.

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