Christine Timbrell, born in 1941 as Christopher Timbrell, has won her discrimination claim against the Department for Work and Pensions after it refused to pay her the state pension at 60 — the age at which women born before 5 April 1950 should receive it.
Christine had a sex-change operation in 2000, aged 59. After she turned 60, she asked HM Revenue & Customs to begin paying her state pension. HMRC refused, however, on the ground that since she had not divorced her wife Joy, her gender reassignment was not legally recognised.
Christine protested, particularly since Joy supported her decision to change gender and they continue to live together happily as a married couple — indeed, they have two children together. But HMRC insisted their hands were tied due to the Gender Recognition Act 2004, which stipulates that the new sex of a married transsexual is only recognised upon annulment or dissolution of a pre-op marriage.
She decided to appeal the decision. In March, her barrister, Marie-Eleni Demetriou, argued that the rule under the Gender Recognition Act — which effectively required Christine to divorce Joy (after 43 years of marriage) for her gender to be recognised — was a “disproportionate” violation of her right to respect for private and family life enshrined in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Commenting on her case Christine said:
“We were married by a bishop almost 43 years ago and we are regular churchgoers.
“The Department of Work and Pensions say the remedy is for us to divorce and go into a civil partnership, but we say that’s not the same.
“We are not gay and it would be hypocritical to pretend that we are. That is what we would be doing by entering into a civil partnership.”
The three Court of Appeal judges agreed and found that the law’s failure to recognise gender change if a married transsexual fails to divorce constitutes unlawful discrimination. Consequently, the Department of Work and Pensions must now pay Christine a backdated pension as a woman from her 60th birthday.
- Woman who had sex change wins legal right to pension at 60 (Guardian)
- Find a solicitor (Contact Law)
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