Success for a Transgender Woman in fight against DWP

The ruling made by the European judges in the case of the transgender woman and her pension rights brings official acceptance of transgender people a step closer. 

The woman, known only as MB, when reaching the age of 60 she applied for her state pension but was rejected as she did not have a gender reassignment certificate.  MB had been married previously and there are two children of the marriage; however when she began to live as a woman in 1991, followed by gender reassignment surgery in 1995, she did not seek to have the marriage annulled for religious reasons and a full gender recognition certificate is not issued in England or Wales unless the marriage is ended by divorce or annulment.  An interim certificate can be issued to be submitted as evidence in a divorce or annulment to demonstrate the relationship is at an end.

MB was told she would have to wait until she was 65, the male pensionable age, to be able to collect her pension.  MB then was faced with a David and Goliath fight to obtain her entitlement to state pension and she applied through courts for a decision as to whether the Department of Works and Pensions had discriminated against her.  The Supreme Court in England and Wales asked the European Court of Justice to rule on the case, the ruling stated that the “UK legislation constitutes direct discrimination based on sex”, explaining that “the purpose of the UK’s state pension scheme is to  provide protection against the risks of old age by conferring on the person concerned the right to a retirement pension acquired in relation to the contributions paid by that person during his or her working life, irrespective of marital status”.

This is a significant victory for transgender people and will almost certainly result in a re-think by the government as to the circumstances of an individual applying for a gender recognition certificate and the requirements that should be fulfilled by the applicant in order to be granted a certificate.  The matter now has to revert to the Supreme Court to enable the ruling to be applied.  The Department of Works and Pensions, rather than taking immediate action on the ruling in advance of the Supreme Court action, has disappointingly issued the following comment: “We are carefully considering the implications of the Court of Justice of the European Union’s judgment and will await the verdict of the Supreme Court.”  There seems to be little to consider as the European Court of Justice’s ruling seems to be quite clear. The Department of Works and Pensions would be well advised to act swiftly and not drag its feet as that would appear to the world as being deliberately mischievous and aimed at causing MB inconvenience and annoyance.  It is to be hoped that MB will now receive a back-payment of her pension that she was entitled to in 2008.

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