Judgment No. 2549
1. The impugned decision of 4 February 2005 is set aside.
2. The case is referred back to the ILO for consideration of the complainant's rights in accordance with 13 above.
3. The Organization shall pay the complainant compensation in the amount of 10,000 Swiss francs.
4. It shall also pay her 3,000 francs in costs.
Considerations 10, 11 and 13
The complainant, a Danish national, was employed by the ILO from 3 January 2002 to 2 January 2005. She had entered into a registered partnership with her same-sex partner. On taking up her functions, she submitted a Certificate of Registered Partnership drawn up in accordance with the Danish Act on registered partnership and asked to be granted dependency benefits, designating her partner as her spouse. Her request was rejected. The Office stated that it was "in a position to recognise same-sex marriages immediately where the legislation of the country of the staff member's nationality recognises such marriages." It has in fact recently recognised such same-sex marriages where the national legislation defines same-sex marriages as spousal relationships.
"The question is whether the broad interpretation of the term 'spouse' already given by the Office in the case of a marriage recognised by the legislation of the country of the staff member's nationality should have been extended to unions between same-sex partners which are not expressly designated as marriages under the national law of the staff member concerned. The Tribunal feels that a purely nominalistic approach to this issue would be excessively formalistic and is inappropriate in view of the fact that the situation varies from one country to another and that great care must be taken not to treat officials placed in comparable situations unequally: it is not because a country has opted for legislation that admits same-sex unions while refusing to describe them as marriages that officials who are nationals of that State should necessarily be denied certain rights. As pointed out in Judgment 1715 [...], there may be situations in which the status of spouse can be recognised in the absence of a marriage, provided that the staff member concerned can show the precise provisions of local law on which he or she relies. It is therefore necessary to determine whether in the present case the provisions of Danish law enable the complainant and her partner to be considered as 'spouses' in the meaning of the applicable regulations."
After having examined the provisions of the Danish Act on registered partnership, the Tribunal finds that "the Director-General was wrong [...] to refuse to recognise the status of spouse for the complainant's partner [and orders] the ILO [to] give full effect to this ruling by granting the complainant the benefits denied to her during the time of her employment".
ILOAT Judgment(s): 1715
complaint allowed; status of complainant; international civil servant; marital status; nationality; exception; burden of proof; applicable law; equal treatment; member state; declaration of recognition; domestic law; interpretation; analogy; provision; contract; family allowance; dependant; social benefit; judicial review; executive head; condition; consequence; definition; difference; refusal; request; right; same; same-sex marriage