Many of you will be aware that the passage of the marriage legislation that will, amongst other things, introduce same-sex marriage in Jersey has suffered further delays. This time at the hands of the Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel (Deputy John le Fondre, Senator Sarah Ferguson and Deputy Simon Bree), who sent a letter to the Chief Minister last week stating that they would be seeking to further scrutinise the law following the debate on 14 November 2017. This means that the debate on 14 November can only be an ‘in principle’ debate about the new law.
In practical terms, what this means for couples seeking to marry in 2018 is that the 31 March 2018 date is unlikely. Having delayed the law, the Scrutiny Panel have an extra four States’ sittings after 14 November before they must respond, which takes us to mid-December. If the legislation were to pass in December, it would need to go to Privy Council in January, but there is no Privy Council in January, so February is the earliest it could be passed into law. However, Privy Council can take three months, which would take us to a new earliest date of end of May 2018.
The Scrutiny Panel’s reasons for delaying the legislation further are the amendments that the Chief Minister lodged after lodging the draft law. They state that they are ‘significant legislative changes’. In fact, they are not significant and mostly correct spelling and grammar errors. Further, the Scrutiny Panel were aware that an amendment would be lodged by the Chief Minister on 15 September 2017, so this should not have come as any surprise to them.
Liberate have read carefully both the draft law and the amendment, and we have written an eight-page response to the Scrutiny Panel’s request for evidence. You can read our response here.
We were invited to submit evidence on 16 October 2017 and we submitted our response on 1 November 2017. We are not politicians, paid from the public purse to do this work; we are volunteers, holding down another job and doing this in our spare time. We have managed to read and respond thoroughly to all of Scrutiny’s points of reference and we can see no good reason for an extended examination by Scrutiny of the draft law.
The States of Jersey undertook to have the law in place by the end of this year. The delays are now costing members of the public money (in lost deposits, cancelled flights etc) and jepardising couples’ wedding plans. It is not only same-sex couples who are being affected, opposite-sex couples are also having their plans thrown into disarray. Those couples, who were planning an open-air wedding, are now having to seek approved venues that can accommodate their date as a late booking.