Result: on 2 March 2022, the States of Jersey approved the draft law lodged on 17 January 2022 that will make civil partnerships available to opposite sex couples.
In 2012 the States of Jersey put in place the Civil Partnership (Jersey) Law that provided same-sex couples with a legal means to register their partnership. It wasn’t marriage, it was different. For some, that difference meant civil partnerships were a consolation prize for gay people that would never be equal to the ‘gold standard’ of marriage; for others, that difference meant civil partnerships were untarnished by the baggage associated with a traditional institution like marriage; for others, civil partnerships were simply the first and necessary step towards same-sex couples being allowed to marry.
In February 2018 the States of Jersey amended the Marriage and Civil Status (Jersey) Law to open up marriage to everyone irrespective of the genders of the partners wanting to marry. This created a situation where same-sex couples had a choice – marriage or civil partnership – but different-sex couples could only choose marriage. This was patently unfair and the inequality needed to be addressed.
One option to resolve this would be to remove the ability for anyone to enter into a new civil partnership from a particular date. Thus, ultimately, consigning civil partnerships to history.
We argued there were problems with this approach:
1. As time passes, a little like older versions of Microsoft Windows where technical support is gradually withdrawn, those in civil partnerships would find their needs considered less and less by government; and,
2. Those in civil partnerships would feel pressure to convert their partnership into a marriage in order to keep their legal status relevant.
Liberate instead supported the opening up of civil partnerships to all couples. Our reasons were as follows:
1. Not everyone wants to get married. It’s all about personal choice. Those who have experienced divorce may feel marriage is tarnished for them, and women, particularly, may feel that marriage carries patriarchal overtones. For some, a civil partnership is a modern, equal way of expressing their partnership. In the UK, 17% of same-sex couples have chosen civil partnership over marriage since its introduction in March 2014.
2. The law treats cohabiting couples as two unrelated individuals. The idea that a ‘common law marriage’ entitles the cohabiting partners to the same rights as a marriage or civil partnership is a common, but wrong, assumption. The state should be encouraging couples to put their cohabitation on a legal basis – it can provide rights under company pension and health insurance schemes, gives financial support to one or both parties on the breakdown of the relationship, gives rights to the surviving partner on the death of the other, and provides tax exemptions and entitlements to benefits.
3. In December 2019, eligible opposite sex couples in the UK have been able to enter a civil partnership. If Jersey did not also open up civil partnerships it would be out of step with the neighbour that provides its greatest number of immigrants and unable to recognise the legal status of those different-sex couples in civil partnerships coming to the island to live and work.