by Yogin Devan

Landmark ruling

Same-sex spouses need written consent

Deputy Pension Funds Adjudicator, Muvhango Lukhaimane
Muvhango Lukhaimane.jpg

A dispute over payment of a spouse’s pension in a same-sex relationship has come before the Office of the Pension Funds Adjudicator.

Muvhango Lukhaimane, deputy Pension Funds Adjudicator, dismissed a complaint brought against the AECI Pension Fund (the respondent), which had refused to pay the complainant a spouse’s pension.

Lukhaimane ruled that a spouse in a same-sex relationship cannot be paid a spouse’s pension unless he or she was nominated in writing by the deceased as the person entitled to receive payment of the spouse’s pension as required in the rules of the AECI Pension fund. 

The complainant’s partner passed away in March 2009. Both the complainant and his partner were members of the AECI Pension Fund. 

When the complainant sought payment of a spouse’s pension from the respondent, he was advised that he was not entitled to payment of a monthly spouse’s pension.

He submitted in his complaint that he qualified as an eligible spouse as defined in the rules of the respondent and, as such, he was entitled to payment of a spouse’s pension.

Further, he said, as he had been the deceased’s life partner since 1984 until his death, the respondent ought to have known about the relationship, as he and the deceased shared the same postal address that the respondent used for communication over the years.  

The respondent submitted that at the date of the deceased’s death, he was registered as single and thus no actuarial provision was held for a spouse’s pension.

No record of the complainant’s registration as the deceased’s permanent same-sex life partner was available. The fund had no option but to treat the deceased as being single and, therefore, no spouse’s pension accrued to the complainant.

In her determination, Lukhaimane said the manner of payment of a spouse’s pension and the necessary requirements are contained in the rules of each fund.

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