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Court of Appeal finds that Secretary of State was wrong to deny transsexual her pension at 60

22/06/10

Christine Timbrell v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The Court of Appeal today unanimously held that the Secretary of State was wrong to treat Christine Timbrell, a male to female transsexual, as a man for state pension purposes.

Ms Timbrell underwent gender reassignment surgery ten years ago.  On reaching her 60th birthday, she applied for her state pension.  The Secretary of State rejected her claim, stating that she was not entitled to her pension until she reached the age of 65, the age of entitlement for men.  In particular, the Secretary of State purported to rely on the Gender Recognition Act 2004 which requires transsexuals to divorce before the Government will recognise their acquired gender.  Ms Timbrell and her wife, who have been married for more than 40 years, did not wish to divorce.

Aikens LJ, with whom the other members of the Court agreed, held that EU law discrimination law conferred a directly effective right on Ms Timbrell to be treated as a woman and consequently to receive her pension from the age of 60.  The Gender Recognition Act had not been in force at the time that Ms Timbrell had made her claim and the Secretary of State could not rely on its provisions either directly or indirectly.  The Court consequently allowed Ms Timbrell's appeal against the decision of the Upper Tribunal which had upheld the Secretary of State's decision.

The judgment is here.

Marie Demetriou, instructed by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, represented Christine Timbrell.