The States of Jersey today approved the amendments to Jersey’s marriage legislation that will allow same sex couples and couples where one or both partners are transgender to marry.
Liberate was formed to respond to the calls for same sex marriage across the Channel Islands. Guernsey achieved equal marriage last year and, finally, after three and a half years of working on this issue and a bit later than planned, it happened in Jersey today! The States of Jersey voted 43:1 in favour of legalising same sex marriage. The law now has to go to Privy Council for Royal Assent, which could take about three months, so we expect to see same sex couples walking down the aisle in Jersey by early May 2018.
We are delighted that marriage is now opened up to same sex couples and that open air weddings are now possible. As Liberate’s petition showed, which reached Russia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Romania, the USA and all points in between, the world has been watching this debate and it is fantastic that we can now welcome the world to our island to get married on its beautiful beaches and coastal areas.
Thank you to everyone who engaged in the political process and signed the petition, wrote an email, explained to people why this was needed by the LGBT+ community – it all helped demonstrate why it was so important that this legislation was passed and passed with no exemptions.
We live in a democracy and the fact that we are all free to speak is something to be cherished. The debate has been impressive in terms of the number and variety of people it has engaged and in the respect shown by all sides. What this proves is that our island is home to diverse groups and communities, who will not always agree on every issue, but that is what makes us stronger. It is vital that we can share our views and continue to do so, especially with people we don’t agree with, so that we can learn from each other.
Liberate does not want to see anybody taken to tribunal for their genuinely held religious beliefs. Our concern when the Scrutiny Panel lodged the amendment containing the tolerance clause was that it was unworkable in practice and would be highly divisive, resulting in more not fewer tribunal cases. We would much prefer to see an island where differing beliefs are accepted and respected – if we are kind to one another, nobody should ever end up in a tribunal.
We would like to thank everyone who worked within and outside of the States of Jersey to make equal marriage happen. In particular, Deputy Sam Mezec and Reform Jersey who started this journey in 2014. We also wish to thank the Chief Minister Ian Gorst and his team for their determination that this was the right thing to do for the island and their unwaivering support throughout the process, even when things didn’t go to plan.
Finally, there were many speeches within the States Chamber today that expressed the need for the island to heal the divisions caused by such an impassioned debate. We hope that this will happen and that everyone will make the effort to reach out to those who disagreed with them on this issue.
There is still work to do to tidy up a few amendments to the law as passed today and around surrogacy, civil partnership and divorce laws, but these are issues for another day. Today, on the first day of LGBT+ history month, Jersey made a bit of LGBT+ history.