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Grant v. South-West Trains , European Court of Justice, Case C-249/96, February 17, 1998

Facts: the applicant was a lesbian employee whose partner was denied the free travel benefits enjoyed by different sex partners.

Complaint: relying on article 119 of the European Community Treaty, the applicant argued that because unmarried opposite-sex partners of employees were given the benefits, the refusal of benefits to her partner constituted sex discrimination. She also argued that the denial constituted "sexual orientation" discrimination which should be considered unlawful discrimination "based on sex" for purposes of the Treaty.

Reasoning: the ECJ held that there was no discrimination on the basis of sex because male workers and female workers would be affected identically by the denial of benefits. It stated that the European Parliament and the Community member states do not treat same-sex cohabitation the same as either marriage or opposite-sex cohabitation. It noted that the ECHR does not consider disparate treatment of same-sex couples to be a violation of Articles 8 and 14 of the Convention and that the ECHR had construed Article 12 to apply only to traditional marriage. The ECJ also rejected the "sexual orientation" discrimination claim noting that the clear wording of the Treaty referred only to sex discrimination. It declined to extend the broad definition of "sex discrimination" which it had accepted in the transsexual case, P v. S [1996] I.C.R. 795 ECJ. It held that the Equal Treatment Directive provided no protection against discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation.

 

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