TCD lecturer loses discrimination case

Europe’s top court has ruled that a retired Trinity College Dublin lecturer was not discriminated against on his pension rights because of his sexual orientation or age.

David Parris, a fellow emeritus in French, had challenged the university’s pension scheme rules which would prevent his same-sex partner of more than 30 years from accessing a survivor’s pension in the event of his death. He had taken the case against Trinity, the Higher Education Authority, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, and the Department of Education.

The European Court of Justice was asked by the Labour Court in Ireland whether the rules, which makes entitlement to a survivor’s pension conditional on a member having married or entered into a civil partnership before the age of 60, were discriminatory, either directly or indirectly, under EU law.

Dr Parris, who has dual Irish and UK nationality, had argued that he had effectively been barred from passing on a survivor’s pension to his long-term partner because it had been impossible for him under Irish law to have married or contracted a civil partnership before his 60th birthday.

Civil partnerships were only recognised in the Republic for the first time in 2011 by which time he was over 60.

Dr Parris, who is now aged 70, entered a civil partnership under UK law in 2009 and he subsequently married his partner in the UK last year.

Yesterday, the Luxembourg-based court found that Mr Parris was not directly discriminated against as he was not treated in a less favourable manner than another person in a comparable situation because of his sexual orientation.

Addressing the issue of potential indirect discrimination, the court noted EU law did not require Ireland to provide for marriage or some form of civil partnership for same-sex couples before January 1, 2011, nor to give retrospective effect to the Civil Partnership Act.

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