In Römer v Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg (Romer), a reference was made to the European Court of Justice (the ECJ) for a preliminary ruling concerning the interpretation of Council Directive 2000/78/EC (concerning a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation) (the Directive) and of European legislation relating to discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in employment and occupation. The dispute in the underlying proceedings in the Hamburg Court concerned the amount of pension that Mr Römer was entitled to claim from November 2001.
Mr Römer entered into a registered life partnership (a type of civil partnership) in October 2001 and, following which, he notified his former employer and requested that the amount of his supplementary retirement pension be recalculated on the basis of a more favourable tax deduction (tax category III/0). This request was refused on the grounds that, in accordance with the paragraph 10(6)(1) of the governing law of Hamburg on supplementary retirement and survivors' pensions for employees (the First RGG), "only married, not permanently separated, pensioners ... are entitled to have their retirement pension calculated on the basis of tax category III/0." Mr Römer submitted that he is entitled to be treated in the same manner as a married, not permanently separated, pensioner and that paragraph 10(6)(1) must be interpreted as including pensioners who have entered into a registered life partnership. Furthermore, Mr Römer submitted that his right to equal treatment with married pensioners arises from the Directive. His former employer, the Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg (a local authority), submitted that paragraph 10(6)(1) of the First RGG could not be interpreted as argued by Mr Römer and further, Article 6(1) of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany (the Basic Law) provides that "marriage and family shall enjoy the special protection of the State."
The ECJ held, amongst other things, that the registered life partnership regime created by Germany had gradually become equivalent to marriage and that there was no significant legal difference between the regimes of marriage and registered life partnerships (with the main difference being the respective genders of the parties to the regime). As a result, the ECJ held that there is "direct discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation".
The case has now been remitted back to the Hamburg Court.