On Tuesday, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg delivered its judgement in a landmark case on pension rights for registered same-sex partners.
The case centred on a Mr. Maruko, who lived with his partner in a registered partnership in Germany. After his partner died, the pension scheme for German theatres refused to pay him a survivor’s pension as such pensions were provided only for married partners.
Mr. Maruko sued and the case was referred to the Court.
The ECJ ruled that the refusal to grant the survivor’s pension to life partners constitutes direct discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, when the surviving spouses and surviving life partners are in a comparable situation as regards that pension.
The ECJ made clear that the criterion for such a comparable situation is whether the partners “live in a union of mutual support and assistance which is formally constituted for life.”
Patricia Prendiville, Executive Director of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), welcomed the ruling, praising the European Court of Justice’s “strong wording which unequivocally stated that ‘refusal to grant the survivor’s pension to life partners constitutes direct discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.’”
ILGA-Europe said the the ruling will be applicable in all European Union (EU) countries which provide formal registration of same-sex unions and require mutual maintenance.
At the same time it said that it is concerned that the decision does not have immediate legal consequences for same-sex partners in those EU countries that do not yet recognise same-sex unions.