There have been a number of media reports about the amendment that has been lodged by the Scrutiny Panel following their review of the Marriage Law lodged by the Chief Minister in October 2017.
The Marriage Law as lodged by the Chief Minister permitted religious organisations, Anglican clergy and authorised religious officials to refuse to solemnise or otherwise participate in same sex marriages or marriages involving a transgender person (“Equal Marriage”) without being in breach of discrimination legislation.
Until such time as religious organisations resolve their own internal conflicts over this issue and adopt Equal Marriage, this is one way solve the problem of religious officials being compelled to do something by law that goes against their organisation’s rules and regulations, and Liberate supports this provision for religious organisations and their officials.
This week’s amendment goes further and also permits the following to happen:
The Scrutiny Panel have called this a ‘tolerance clause’. They have said that they are concerned about the absence of protections in the Marriage Law for people who believe they cannot participate in same sex marriage on the basis of their religious convictions.
Liberate does not support this amendment to the Marriage Law and the consequential amendment to the Discrimination Law.
Throughout this debate there has been a conflation of religious belief with being anti-same sex marriage. The Scrutiny Panel has also fallen into this trap in the provisions made by their amendment.
Having a religious conviction does not mean that you will be anti-same sex marriage, just as being part of the LGBT+ community does not mean that you will be pro-same sex marriage. There are a multiplicity of views, and reasons behind those views, across society. All one can safely say is that there are those who are for same sex marriage and those who are not – whether their reason is based on a religious belief or not.
Last month, Indiana University published the first national (USA) study to experimentally examine public opinion on business service provision to sexual minorities. Federal US law currently allows service refusal to sexual minorities, with religious accommodation used to justify denial of services to same sex couples. This is similar to what is being proposed by the Scrutiny Panel and crucially the same justification for doing it. The study demonstrated that American support for the denial of services to same sex couples is driven not by religious-specific freedom but, instead, by personal opposition to marriage rights.
This is not surprising. As human beings, we all have unconscious biases that manifest in prejudicial behaviours against ‘people who are not like us’. Legitimising those prejudices through a selective reading of a sacred text is one way to deal with fears about otherness and bolster confidence about our choice to deny someone else the privileges we enjoy. As the study found, denying services to same sex couples has everything to do with our underlying prejudices and very little to do with a desire to accommodate religious conviction.
This makes sense. If this was not the case, why would some people of religious conviction support same sex marriage? The Scrutiny Panel received submissions from both the Methodist Church and the Jewish Congregation, neither called for a tolerance clause. Religious conviction on its own is not enough to make you anti-same sex marriage, there has to be another ingredient.
This is why Liberate cannot support the Scrutiny Panel’s amendment because it sets up an artificial division within society between those of religious conviction and those in same sex relationships. In seeking to stop the sort of social discord seen in cases such as the Asher’s Bakery case in Northern Ireland and stop those business owners of religious conviction from being put out of business the Scrutiny Panel has made division much more likely.
Take this scenario: a same sex couple approach a florist to do the flowers for their marriage ceremony. The florist refuses because they are a same sex couple.
What is the first thing that the same sex couple are going to do? They are going to tell people of their bad experience, not necessarily for malicious reasons but to ensure that other same sex couples do not have the same experience. Pretty soon that florist will be on an unofficial ‘blacklist’ and will see their clientele shrink to those who support their view of same sex marriage. This may or may not be enough people to sustain their business.
The second thing that the same sex couple might do is to take the florist to a tribunal for direct discrimination in the provision of goods and services on the grounds of sexual orientation. Taking a tribunal case costs the complainant nothing, defending one would cost the florist. In tribunal the florist would need to prove their religious conviction. As the transgender community will testify, having to prove a personal belief to a tribunal is a degrading experience.
The problem here is that the amendment produced by the Scrutiny Panel does not define ‘religious conviction’ so we have no idea to what degree the florist would need to prove this. It could be just a belief they hold or it could be that they are a regular attendee at a particular place of worship.
Now, take this scenario: a same sex couple approach a florist to do the flowers for their marriage ceremony. The florist refuses because they are already booked for that day.
How do the same sex couple now respond? They look for another florist.
Given the likely outcomes of the first scenario, what is the likelihood that the florist of religious conviction will respond as in the second scenario, even with the Scrutiny Panel’s amendment in place? How different is that from how a florist of religious conviction would respond under the law as it currently stands?
Businesses choose who they serve all the time and adopt numerous strategies to avoid causing potential clients offence when they refuse their business. This is because businesses want to continue in business. They don’t want a reputation as a place that discriminates.
Liberate does not want to see business owners of religious conviction blacklisted. Liberate wants to persuade them to change their minds, to see diversity as a good thing for their business and not something that challenges them. Enabling businesses to shut their doors to a group of people legally does not allow for the possibility that the florist might change their mind once they have witnessed the positive things that opening up marriage to everyone can bring to the island’s economic and social life. Unfortunately, once someone has discriminated against same sex couples that reputation will stick to them.
If you support Liberate’s position on the Scrutiny Panel’s amendment, please sign our petition asking States members not to pass it at the States sitting on 30 January 2018.
The 2018 Liberate Channel Islands Equality and Diversity Awards will honour those organisations and individuals that place inclusivity at the heart of what they do and are to be held on Friday 16 March 2018 in St Helier, Jersey.
Liberate are hosting the second awards dinner to celebrate those organisations and individuals in the Channel Islands who are supporting equality and diversity whether it be focused on race, gender, sexuality, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity/paternity, age or disability.
Vic Tanner Davy, CEO Liberate, said: “So often we hear in the media about organisations that get it wrong and find themselves in front of a tribunal. These awards are about celebrating the organisations that are getting it right. They understand that inclusion is not just good for business, but it is the right thing to do to treat employees and customers with respect.”
The awards, that are open to nominees in both Bailiwicks, were first held as part of Pride week in 2016. The evening was a great success with Channel Islands organisations Law At Work (Channel Islands) Limited, RBC Wealth Management International, Dandy, Lloyds Bank and Barnardo’s Guernsey all taking home awards. Special awards were presented to the Jersey Social Security Department and Daphne Minihane MBE DSG.
Liberate are seeking nominations from members of the public for the following awards:
The awards will be judged by an independent diversity panel.
The awards ceremony will be held in Jersey in 2018 and in Guernsey in 2019.
To nominate an individual or organisation that has made a difference to equality and diversity in the Channel Islands, please visit www.liberate.je/awards where you can find out more about the categories and download a nomination form.
BCR Law enrolled in the DIFERA scheme run by the equality and diversity charity, Liberate, in June 2017. As part of its accreditation, the firm’s recruitment, staff training and other policies were reviewed by the charity and the firm’s culture was assessed by Liberate through an anonymised staff questionnaire.
The law firm will now appoint “champions” of the scheme to affirm the DIFERA principles for both incoming and existing staff members. The training will be facilitated by Liberate’s CXO, Paddy Haversham-Quaid, covering the principles of diversity, equality and fairness in the workplace. They will in turn train their colleagues.
Honorary CEO of Liberate, Vic Tanner Davy, said: “Liberate is delighted that BCR Law is the first law firm to receive the DIFERA accreditation. We are looking forward to working with them to create their DIFERA champions group and strategy for the next two years. We were very impressed with the work that BCR Law has done to date in this area and they are worthy recipients of the accreditation.”
Wendy Lambert, Partner at BCR Law, said: “We felt it was important for BCR Law to be assessed independently by a ground-breaking organisation and to be educated further about diversity and inclusion to enhance the positive culture of the firm. It offers further opportunities for staff engagement and will also enhance client confidence by showing our willingness to seek training and scrutinise ourselves. We’re proud to demonstrate this to our clients, as well as to other organisations and businesses.”
Today, we have sent the following open letter to all Members of the States of Jersey on the subject of the Draft Marriage and Civil Status (Amendment No. 4) (Jersey) Law to be debated on Tuesday 14 November 2017.
Dear States Member
On 22 September 2015, the States of Jersey made a commitment to the people of the Island they serve that: “appropriate legislation should be brought forward for approval to allow same-sex couples to get married in Jersey, with the legislation to –
Other commitments were also made on that day, which have yet to be delivered and which we trust will continue to be worked on by the Chief Minister’s Department. Liberate is pleased that the first part of the proposition has now been delivered.
Liberate has read thoroughly the draft law lodged by the Chief Minister on 3 October 2017 and we have responded to the Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel’s request for evidence, considering each of the terms set by the panel for their scrutiny. Our conclusion is that the law, as drafted and amended, fulfils successfully part (a) of the ‘in principle’ decision taken by the States Chamber on 22 September 2015. (Our response to the Scrutiny Panel’s request for evidence can be read here.)
Over the last two months, there have been a number of comments in the media regarding the necessity of including a so-called ‘conscience clause’ in the marriage law. Many will have read the memo from the Christian Legal Centre in the UK circulated last weekend to Jersey politicians.
To be clear, a ‘conscience clause’ is not the same as the ‘quadruple lock’, which is fully implemented within the draft marriage law and which protects members of the clergy from being forced to perform a marriage ceremony against their conscience. Were a ‘conscience clause’ to exist in law, it would relate to members of the general public who happen to hold a particular religious view that, in this case, opposes same-sex marriage.
Liberate urges Members to reject calls for any such addition to the marriage law on the grounds that defining the ability for one group to discriminate legally, through an exemption, against another group sits within the Discrimination (Jersey) Law 2013. Therefore, the ‘conscience clause’ argument is not, in our view, a valid reason to delay the passage of the marriage legislation and is a separate issue that should be dealt with as such.
Finally, Liberate would ask States Members to do all in their power to minimise any further delays to the passage of the marriage law for three reasons:
Vic Tanner Davy
(Honorary) Chief Executive Officer
For and on behalf of Liberate
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.
We have received an email from Mark Egan, Greffier to the States of Jersey. He is recruiting for 4 members of the new Referendum Commission plus its chair.
The Referendum Commission is a new body which will have two jobs:
Commissioners will play an important role in ensuring that any future referendums are fair and well run.
Anyone can serve on the Referendum Commission if they have an interest in Jersey politics and can demonstrate:
The chair must have a successful, board-level or equivalent, track record within the public, private or not-for-profit sectors that demonstrates experience of:
This information sheet provides more information. If you (or anyone interested in these roles) have any questions please email or give Mark a call.
The deadline for applications is 3 November 2017 – all Mark needs is a letter or email setting out some information about the applicant’s working background and explaining why they wish to serve on the Commission.
The following press release was issued today by the States of Jersey:
Same-sex couples will be able to get married in Jersey from spring 2018 onwards thanks to a major overhaul of the Island’s marriage laws.
Jersey’s Deputy Chief Minister, Senator Andrew Green, has proposed new legislation, which has been drawn up following the September 2015 decision by the States Assembly to amend the Marriage and Civil Status (Jersey) Law in principle.
Senator Green said: “It’s fantastic news that we have lodged this important piece of legislation – it will enable same-sex couples to marry, and also outlines changes that will benefit any couple intending to get married.
“The changes contained in the new legislation are far-reaching, and as a result the new Law is being lodged later than was hoped. We are sorry for the delay, which we realise must have been frustrating for couples who have been wanting to plan their ceremony. It’s an important step, and it is equally important that we get it right.”
The changes will make it easier for couples, both Jersey residents and those who live elsewhere, to organise their wedding. There is provision for couples to get married in open air locations, as well as to have more choice over the content of their ceremony and the person conducting it.
Tighter controls are included to safeguard against sham and forced marriages, ensuring that those wishing to marry have the necessary immigration status.
And the new Law will also make it much easier for couples to apply to get married – for the first time it will be possible to apply online.
The new law is due to be debated in the States Assembly in mid-November.
CI Pride 2017 started on Friday 8 September 2017 with a wedding-themed dress down day and an announcement from the Chief Minister, Senator Ian Gorst, that the passage of marriage legislation in Jersey had been delayed and we would not see same-sex couples walking up the aisle until Spring 2018. This was a huge disappointment (and terrible timing)! However, it made the point of Pride even more firmly. Something that was not lost on the staff at HSBC, who outdid their banking rivals by lighting up their waterfront offices in the Pride colours for the whole week.
The Channel Islands’ Pride 2017 parade left West’s Centre at 3pm on Saturday 9 September. The parade was led by the States of Jersey Fire Service in one of their fire trucks and a taxi decorated with rainbows. Due to the weather forecast, Liberate think that the numbers were a little down on 2016, but that there were still over 3,000 people in the parade through the streets of St Helier.
The parade was led by Panda the Pony and her owner, Rosemary Lothian. As well as those who had dressed up in wedding gear, in keeping with this year’s marriage theme, there were representatives from many CI organisations including Andium Homes, RBC, HSBC, NatWest Bank, Lloyds Bank, Barclays Bank, Waitrose, Highlands College, the WI, Unite the Union, NASUWT and the Jersey Youth Service. Music on the route was provided by The Word on the Street.
In Commercial Street, a 50m long rainbow flag was passed over the heads of the walkers and created a rainbow river down the street. At which point, the heavens opened. What had been a beautifully sunny September afternoon became, for about half an hour, a soaking wet swamp as the parade dashed for cover in all the bars around Weighbridge Square.
It didn’t take long for people to reappear in their see-through rain ponchos and to join in with the Jersey Youth Service’s flashmob that got everyone up and dancing.
The afternoon’s events commenced with speeches. Rachel French, Chair of Liberate, welcomed everyone and invited the Lead Sponsor’s CEO, Colin Macleod, to give his message of support to the diverse Channel Islands communities. Colin then introduced the hosts of the Pride stage, David Dale and Legs Up Lucy, who were familiar faces to those audience members who remember The Cosmopolitan in the 1990s.
The big act for the 2017 stage didn’t come any bigger than the London Gay Big Band, who despite the rain got the party started with a selection of well-known hits. Paula Randell then gave her Cher tribute impersonation with some help from David and Lucy. Finally, we welcomed an array of local talent to the stage, who were interpreted by our signer for the deaf and hard of hearing, Ella O’Connor.
Thank you to The Channel Islands Co-Operative Society, our leading sponsor, Citi and G4S, our major sponsors. Thank you also to Magic Touch, who also created and sold all our merchandise, Mailmate, Delta and Vibert Marquees. Thank you to the Parish of St Helier, the States of Jersey Police, St John Ambulance and the Jersey Waterfront Development Company, who make the logistics of Pride so much easier.
Thank you all for your contribution to making CI Pride 2017 one to remember.
The theme of 2017’s Pride parade was marriage.
As 2017 will see the introduction of same-sex marriage in both Jersey and Guernsey, the theme of 2017’s Pride parade was marriage. This long-awaited piece of legislation demonstrates in the most tangible way possible that the governments of the Channel Islands believe same-sex partnerships to be the equal of opposite-sex partnerships. We celebrated those who argued for this equality over the years and we commemorated those who would have dearly loved to be married but did not live to see this day.
Marriage, in whatever form, represents a potential force for good in the world through the support those two people give each other, through the children it might produce, and through the strength that comes from being in a partnership that can be then shared with others. There is a reason why the traditional Church of England marriage service says: “It enriches society and strengthens community.”
However you feel about the institution of marriage, we hope you agree that a loving, committed relationship between two people is always something to be celebrated. #IDo
ITV Channel’s fabulous video coverage of Pride 17: http://www.itv.com/news/channel/2017-09-11/highlights-from-channel-islands-pride-2017/
Liberate met the Chief Minister, Senator Ian Gorst, and Senators Andrew Green and Paul Routier, this morning. The Chief Minister started by reiterating his apology to the LGBT+ community for the delay in getting the legislation ready in time for it to be law by 1 January 2018. The delay was due to an under-estimation of the complexities involved in re-writing the marriage law and departmental problems that have now been resolved. He also reaffirmed his commitment to making equal marriage legal in Jersey.
We now have a tentative and cautious date of 31 March 2018 for same-sex marriage to be legal. The reason for the hesitation is because the part of the process that makes this primary piece of legislation law – Royal assent at Privy Council – is completely outside of the control of the States of Jersey.
The revised timetable is now: the draft of the law is due to be finished this week, it will be lodged in the States at the end of this month, it will be debated (and hopefully passed) by the States Chamber in mid-November, it will be sent to Privy Council in December for Royal assent, and this is the unknown bit – at the moment Privy Council are passing legislation from the Island quickly, but it could take up to 3 months to come back from Privy Council in the UK and become law over here – which takes us to the end of March 2018.
Having said this, it could come back as quickly as January 2018. The Chief Minister said that this could happen because of the UK government’s commitment to legislation that advances human and equal rights, but it is outside of his control to influence this.
Some of the changes to law that had been planned to come in at the same time as the new legislation will now be staged and brought in separately later, in order that the main change can be passed as soon as possible.
Disappointing though the delay is, Liberate is satisfied that Senator Gorst is sincere is his desire to see this legislation pass and will be doing all he can to make it pass as quickly as possible now.
It will be a relief to those waiting to marry next year to know that a summer wedding is still a possibility.