A British transgender woman has been given her pension after a ten-year legal battle due to a landmark ruling by the European Court of Justice.
In the decision on Tuesday, the court stated that the British government discriminated against the woman, known as MB in court documents, by denying her a pension at the age of 60.
In the UK, women born before 1950 were eligible to claim their state pension at the age of 60, with men eligible to draw the pension by the age of 65.
In 2008, MB attempted to claim her pension following her 60th birthday but had her claim denied by the Department for Work and Pensions who claimed that MB was not legally a woman.
The Department for Work and Pensions said that because MB did not have a Gender Recognition Certificate – the document provided under the Gender Recognition Act that gives legal recognition to trans people – she was ineligible to draw out her pension as a woman.
Prior to the introduction of same-sex marriage in 2014, it was necessary for married trans people to end their marriages to gain the certificates and legal gender recognition.
However MB, who is now 70-years-old, refused to divorce her wife on religious grounds and therefore was unable to gain a Gender Recognition Certificate.
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Due to this, MB was only eligible to claim her pension when she turned 65.
The discrimination case was first brought to the UK Supreme Court but was later referred to the European Court of Justice, where the court ruled the Department for Work and Pensions had discriminated against MB.
On Tuesday, the court ruled a transgender person “cannot be required to annul the marriage which he or she entered into before that change of gender in order to be entitled to receive a retirement pension,” adding “such a condition constitutes direct discrimination based on sex.”
MB’s lawyers, Jacqueline Mulryne of Arnold & Porter and Chris Stothers of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, welcomed the judgement.
They said: “We are delighted with today’s judgment, which vindicates our client’s determination to challenge the unlawful and discriminatory decision of the UK government to refuse to recognise her change of gender or to pay her state pension.
“After almost a decade, MB will finally be paid her pension and recognised as a woman by the government. This is a small decision but it has great importance in the move towards increased equality and respect.”
This judgement may now have significant implications for other transgender women who were denied their pensions at the age of 60.
The Gender Recognition Act itself was introduced in 2004 following the legal case brought by Christine Goodwin, who was unable to draw her pension because she was not legally recognised as a woman.