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Same-sex marriages to be introduced in Jersey by 2017?

News | Published:

  • Chief Minister has brought forward a proposal to the States to allow same-sex couples to marry in Jersey
  • The move follows three-month public consultation
  • If the plans are approved, same-sex marriage could be introduced in Jersey by the start of 2017
  • Comment: Read what the JEP thinks below

SAME-SEX couples could soon be allowed to marry in Jersey after the Chief Minister brought forward a proposal to the States yesterday.

It follows a three-month public consultation, launched last August, to investigate whether it was appropriate for same-sex marriage to be introduced in the Island.

Only 1.5 per cent of Islanders responded to the survey.

The Chief Minister Ian Gorst, writing in the proposition, said: 'It would be unreasonable, and inappropriate, to continue to deny same-sex couples the opportunity to get married'.

Equality charity Liberate said that they were 'heartened' by Senator Gorst's comments and welcomed the proposal.

If the proposition is approved by the States, same-sex couples in civil partnerships would be allowed to convert their union to a marriage and the terms 'husband and wife' and 'mother and father' would be retained for couples where appropriate.

There are also recommendations to agree to change the current divorce law to place a heavier emphasis on 'reconciliation and mediation'.

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The proposition does not include any plans to introduce a so-called 'spousal veto', which is currently in place in England and Wales.

The law can stop transgender people from having their gender legally recognised if their spouse does not sanction it.

Vic Tanner Davy, founder of the transgender support group Trans Jersey, said he welcomed the absence of a spousal veto.

'There are a number of problems that exist currently for transgender people in Jersey looking to recognise their gender legally and we look forward to seeing more detail on this aspect of the proposal,' he said.

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However, included in the recommendations are a number of 'safeguards' that mean a religious same-sex marriage will only be granted if the organisation has agreed to it, and no religious institution or leader will be compelled to marry gay or lesbian couples.

If the plans are approved, same-sex marriage could be introduced in Jersey by the start of 2017.

Senator Gorst's proposition was brought forward on the same day that States Members began to debate Deputy Louise Doublet's proposition to allow open-air marriages in Jersey.

Members were expected to vote on her proposals this morning after the Chamber had finished discussing the move.

The first couple to marry in France after the French government voted a new law legalizing same-sex marriage. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)

THE majority of Islanders will likely welcome Chief Minister Ian Gorst's proposal to introduce same-sex marriage in Jersey.

Extrapolating the views of JEP readers, who resoundingly backed the change in an online poll last year, and those who responded favourably to a States consultation, it seems that most people are supportive of equal marriage laws.

Some will feel that Senator Gorst's proposal is long overdue, and that Jersey should have introduced such legislation years ago, but it is undeniable that the three-month consultation that was held gives authority to his backing of what is a potentially controversial law change.

Yes, there are still some corners of the Island who oppose same-sex marriage – mainly from religious viewpoints – but as Senator Gorst said in his proposition: 'It would be unreasonable, and inappropriate, to continue to deny same-sex couples the opportunity to get married.'

This is not a victory of secularism over religion – it is a victory for equality and fairness.

It is also worth noting that the proposer, Senator Gorst, is a man who has a strong faith and religious beliefs.

If Senator Gorst's proposition is successful then Jersey could host its first same-sex marriage in 2017.

Only then will the harbingers of doom, who forecast iniquity and the loss of morality should 'gay marriage' be allowed in Jersey, see that any effect on the Island should be positive.

They won't forget.

Chairman of Liberate in Jersey, Christian May, said:

'We are heartened by the wording that the Chief Minister has chosen to use in his proposal that says, unequivocally, that 'it would be unreasonable, and inappropriate, to continue to deny same-sex couples the opportunity to get married'. This is, of course, a sentiment that we share.'

Mr May added that Liberate also supports the Chief Minister's decision to not propose legislation that compels religious groups to marry same-sex couples.

'It is important that all the faith groups in our island reach their own conclusions on equal marriage and, if they decide they would like to celebrate it, to be able to do so when they are ready. The protections being proposed are proportionate and an appropriate response to the problem of allowing people the freedom to practice their religious beliefs within their sacred spaces without interference from the state, whilst not permitting discrimination against same-sex couples.'

The ability for a transgender partner in a marriage to transition and have their gender recognised in law without the so-called spousal veto that exists in England and Wales is good news for Trans* Jersey founder Vic Tanner Davy:

'We welcome the re-examination being proposed for the process of gender recognition in the island and the commitment by the Chief Minister to follow the Scottish model for same-sex marriage that allows an opposite-sex marriage to seamlessly convert to a same-sex marriage, and vice versa, where someone transitions.

'There are a number of problems that exist currently for transgender people in Jersey looking to recognise their gender legally and we look forward to seeing more detail on this aspect of the proposal.'

The timetable for the implementation of the legal changes means that equal marriage could be a reality in Jersey by the end of 2017. Mr May said Liberate are pleased that the process is still on-track despite a delay at the start of this year.

'The proposal shows just how far-reaching and extensive the legislative changes need to be,' he said. 'It is right that Jersey undertakes the process thoroughly and examines all aspects of marriage at the same time as introducing same-sex marriage. Liberate understands that this will take time but that the end result will be worth the wait.'

HELLO. My name's Gary. And I reserve the right to be offended. The right to be outraged. The right to disagree. I'd also like the right to marry my boyfriend, one day. But more of that later.

In the past few days I have read articles, both in print and online, on the issue of same-sex or equal marriage. They have covered a broad spectrum of views. Many, in the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling in the United States, have been about promoting tolerance, love and equality.

When I watched his speech, the words of President Obama actually brought a tear to my eye. And, yes, I do consider myself a cynical, sceptical hack who doesn't routinely cry.

He said: 'Love is love.' He added that the move towards States-wide equal marriage was 'a victory for America. When all Americans are treated as equal, we are all more free'.

Words I wholeheartedly agree with. But not everybody does.

There are those who see the prospect of gay and lesbian couples having their relationship put on an equal footing as other married couples as something akin to the end of the world.

Just as they have their right to spout vitriol, it is my right to brand them ill-informed bigots.

But I won't.

You see, I actually pity them. Reassuringly times and society change. The majority view is now on my side of the argument that equality means equality. The rants of some of those – including here in Jersey – who see it very differently, are to be shown for what they are. Outdated and hurtful. But not always meant in a nasty way.

This newspaper has printed a range of views on a range of subjects. I would, and have, spoken out to defend that right. Do I agree with everything I read in the JEP? Goodness, no! Do I agree with every editorial decision they make? Of course I don't! Do I think the JEP has an anti-gay agenda? Erm… not likely.

Those who preach tolerance, ironically, can occasionally also be those throwing stones back at the very people they accuse of being intolerant.

When – not if – Jersey introduces legislation which allows me to marry my boyfriend, I hope the time will then come that one of us will propose to the other (I'd personally love to be proposed to, but my impatience may get the better of me).

And when our wedding day comes, I will quietly raise a glass to those who stood in my way.

Far from beating me down, you only strengthened my resolve to push for what's right. And for that, I thank you.

Gary Burgess is a journalist for ITV Channel Television

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