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Retired, married gay couple lose battle for equal pension rights

2015-10-07
A gay man has lost his battle for his husband to receive the same pension rights he would be given were he his wife in a heterosexual relationship, the BBC reports. John Walker, 62, retired from chemical group Innospec Ltd in Cheshire in 2003 after 23 years of work with a pension worth £85,000 a year. He entered a civil partnership with his partner - who he has been in a relationship with since 1983 - in 2006 and has since converted the union into a marriage, but because he retired before laws banning sexual orientation discrimination were introduced in 2010, the most his husband could claim in the event of Mr Walker's death is about £500 a year. Elderly couple at golden wedding holding hands If Mr Walker were to marry a woman tomorrow, she would be entitled to about £41,000 a year in the event of his death. An Employment Tribunal in Manchester previously ruled in Mr Walker’s favour in 2012, saying Innospec’s scheme contravened European equality laws, but the ruling was overturned after the company appealed, with the support of the Department for Work and Pensions. The tribunal ruled that an exemption contained in the Equality Act 2010 means that pension rights accrued before civil partnerships became law in December 2005 do not have to be paid out in full to a civil partner. Mr Walker's own appeal - which was supported by human rights group Liberty - has now been dismissed by the Court of Appeal, where three judges unanimously ruled the claim failed because it applied to a period before gay civil partnerships were recognised by the law. high court Speaking after the ruling, Mr Walker, who was represented in court by human rights group Liberty, said: "I paid exactly the same contributions as my heterosexual colleagues. "Yet my husband - with whom I have lived for over 20 years - will be entitled to nothing from the company on my death." He added: "How can this constitute anything other than the most flagrant discrimination?" Giving his ruling, Lord Justice Underhill said: "I can understand that Mr Walker and his husband will find this conclusion hard to accept. "But changes in social attitudes, and the legislation that embodies those changes, cannot fully undo the effects of the past." The government - which supported Innospec Ltd throughout the case - says “full equalisation” of pensions would cost around £3.3bn, while a spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions has said that any ruling in favour of equality would also have complex implications for pension schemes. More stories: Harry Judd strips off for 'Obfleshion' perfume ad Why are so many gay men afraid of getting older