A transgender woman who was unable to access her pension aged 60 has won her court battle after the European Union’s top court found she had been discriminated against.
She had been told by the UK’s courts that she could not be treated as a woman for state pension purposes, and would only become eligible when she turned 65, the age men are legally allowed to claim a pension.
The complex case had divided the UK supreme court, which was forced to refer the issue to the European Court of Justice to resolve it.
The woman, named only as “MB” in court documents, had turned 60 in 2008 and applied for a state pension, which under British law women born before 1950 are entitled to from that age. Men born before 1953 become entitled at the age of 65.
MB was refused because she didn’t have a gender recognition certificate despite living as a woman since 1991.
Under the UK’s 2004 Gender Recognition Act, trans people acquired the right to formally change their gender by obtaining the certificate, but one could not be issued to MB because as a married person, she was required to have her marriage annulled on the basis of her gender change.
At the time, same-sex marriage was not legal in Britain but MB said she preferred to stay married to her wife “in the sight of God”.
Despite the laws affecting her circumstances having since changed in the meantime, with same-sex marriage becoming legal in 2014 and a full gender recognition certificate allowed with the consent of a spouse, the decision in MB’s case wasn’t overturned.
She decided to take legal action against the government, arguing that its approach to her case breached an EU directive on the equal treatment of men and women in matters of social security.
The court ruled on Tuesday that a person who has changed gender does not have to annul the marriage they entered into before the change in order to receive a pension.