Liberate’s reponse to Scrutiny’s request for evidence on draft marriage law

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.

Disability discrimination consultation – social or medical?

The consultation on the disability part of Jersey’s discrimination law is coming to a close and there has been a lot of talk about social and medical models of disability in the consultation meetings Liberate has been in.

Jersey has taken an interesting path when it comes to the drafting of the disability part of the discrimination legislation. There has been a serious attempt to draft legislation that reflects a social model of disability, i.e. instead  of  focusing  on  the  medical effect of the impairment, it focuses on the way that the individual interacts with barriers that hinder their full participation in society. It is not entirely convincing that the draft legislation succeeds in this.

The de-medicalisation of disabled people and their lives is a desirable and laudable goal. However, the social model is not without its problems including –

  • Removing the concept of impairment denies that disabled people have a difference and that they are disabled by that difference as much as by social barriers – it is the interaction of the body and social barriers that causes the disability;
  • The barrier-free environment (ideally, created by anti-discrimination legislation) is a myth. It is true that some social barriers may be removed, e.g. ramps instead of stairs for wheelchair users.  However, it is impossible to remove all the obstacles to people with impairment because some of them are inextricable aspects of the impairment, e.g. there are no social barriers that can be removed for someone with an impairment that causes constant pain;
  • In order to manage disability, people with an impairment have to see themselves as disabled. Many people with impairments reject the identity of ‘disabled person’. Social barriers for one disabled individual are not social barriers for another, even if the impairment is the same. Every individual will be different.

(see ‘The social model of disability: an outdated ideology?’, Shakespeare, 2002)

The conclusion of this train of thought is that a mixture of social and medical models might more properly recognise impairment and barriers working together to produce disadvantage. In this, Jersey’s draft law succeeds, in as much as the new paragraph 8 defines disability medically and the new Article 7A acknowledges the social barriers that need to be removed through the process of reasonable adjustment.

Employers in the sessions we attended tended to want more clarity over whether an employee or customer would be considered disabled, i.e. favouring a medical model. To be fair to most of the businesses we met, this is in order to do the right thing and make the reasonable adjustments that the disabled person needs to function equally in society.

The reaction from others with an interest in the draft law in the sessions we attended has been mixed. Some favour the social model as moving the emphasis off the impairment of the disabled person to the barrier to equality that society creates. Others worry about the lack of clarity over who is disabled and therefore ‘qualifies’ for reasonable adjustments to be requested. Their concern is that, to answer this question, they would need to ask it of the Tribunal, which could see a rise in case numbers and places the burden of bringing a case on the shoulders of the disabled person.

It will be interesting to see what the results of the consultation bring in terms of a final draft of the law.

Referendum Commission

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:

  • To advise the Assembly on the question to be put in a referendum, to help ensure it is fair and impartial; and
  • To choose the lead campaign groups on either side in the referendum (the lead groups can spend more money and will have some assistance in terms of distribution of campaign material).

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:

  • good judgement and integrity and the capacity to be independent and impartial when dealing with contentious political questions;
  • the ability to participate in committee meetings, making a contribution listening to other views, and compromising where necessary; and
  • good oral communication skills.

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:

  • chairing meetings effectively and undertaking media and ambassadorial work on behalf of an organisation
  • building and managing relationships with multiple stakeholders
  • handling conflicts of interest, and
  • working effectively with politicians and influencing people at the highest level.

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.

Major overhaul of Jersey marriage laws

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.

Pride 2017

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 Parade

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 Square

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

Pride 2017 could not have happened without our generous supporters and our volunteers who helped to marshal people and equipment on the day of Pride.

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.

Parade Theme

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:

Marriage legislation update

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.

Don’t like wooden horses, Gavin? How about sounding brass and clanging cymbals?

by Vic Tanner Davy, CEO of Liberate

Another week, another rant by Gavin Ashenden against the LGBT+ community in the Jersey Evening Post. It is becoming predictable, tedious and just a little bit weird. Why is he so obsessed with a part of community that constitutes 10-12% (on a good day) of the population? Coincidentally, this is about the same percentage of people in Jersey who adhere to the Anglican faith (13%: Jersey Annual Social Survey 2015).

You may be surprised to learn that the persecution of both these minorities (any minority, in fact) concerns me. Nobody should feel that they cannot be themselves; that their views are in some way secondary to those of others. I know that some people who have a faith feel they cannot be open about it at work and that is unacceptable; just as some people who are LGBT+ also are not open about this identity for the same reasons. We have more in common than we have differences.

However, unlike Dr Ashenden, I do not see persecution and prejudice as the province of any one group against another. Persecutors, bigots, radicals, fundamentalists – call them what you will – come in all shapes, forms, races, religions, sexual orientations, gender identities, ages and abilities. The LGBT+ community has the same number of keyboard warriors, who will be swift to advocate draconian measures against those who they see as limiting their freedoms, as the faith community.

It is a mistake to see one’s own group as holding the moral and ethical high ground against the marauding hoards who are “not like us”; for that way lies supremacy. Dr Ashenden paints the LGBT+ community as the architects of society’s moral decline and everyone else as brain-washed victims stumbling like zombies into a pit of sin. Only the Church (correction: the type of Church led by him) can save humanity from the furnace! (See what I mean about supremacy?)

At this juncture, I would remind Dr Ashenden of 1 Corinthians 13:1, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal.” On this over-crowded planet, we all need to find ways to live together – to love thy neighbour. We cannot see things the same way as those around us all the time and that means agreeing to disagree sometimes.

It is a shame that Dr Ashenden seems unable to admit this alternative way of being. Instead, he has now made it his mission to tear apart the Church of England unless it accedes to his world view. In a letter to the Daily Telegraph in July this year, he placed the Archbishop of Canterbury “under notice that unless he leads the Church in a way that remains consistent with the values and authority of the bible as opposed to progressive secularism, he will risk some kind of revolt in the form of an independence movement.” Going on to say that, “there will be a significant number who will secede and reconstitute an Anglican church to keep faith with authentic Anglican Christianity.”

If a split in the Church of England were to happen, it would be more catastrophic for our country than any apocalyptic vision Dr Ashenden thinks the LGBT+ community might be responsible for.

Constitutionally in Britain the Church and State are one in the personage of the monarch. If you bring down the Church of England, it is a direct attack on the monarch and would hit right at the heart of what it means to be British and to live in our democracy. (No wonder Dr Ashenden had to resign as a Queen’s Chaplain in January!)

You may not like the Royal family, you may think that government is overly-bureaucratic, you may view the Church an irrelevance, but they are all interlinked in a centuries-old system of checks and balances that enables debate to happen and the oldest modern democracy in the world to survive. It’s not perfect, but look around at some of the alternative ways of being governed and I know where I prefer to live.

The most dangerous people to the British way of life are not amorphous groups, like the LGBT+ community, but those fringe fundamentalists who are so blinded by their hate of others that they will not talk, will not debate, will not conciliate and, crucially, will not listen to others.

Dr Ashenden’s latest rant is nothing new, as a member of the LGBT+ community, I’ve heard it all before, but please do not be taken in by his posture as defender of our country’s values.

I want to reassure those who still adhere to the Christian principle of agape (the highest form of love – charity) that the LGBT+ community know that the majority of you do not agree with Dr Ashenden’s extreme views. I also want to reassure the LGBT+ community that Dr Ashenden is in no way representative of the majority of Christians that I have met or, for that matter, people of other faiths.

In an ironic twist, the history of the Church of England’s support for the LGBT+ community is not a new phenomenon. In fact, it is as old as Dr Ashenden, so he knew the score when he was ordained as a CofE minister. The Wolfenden committee was set up in 1954 (the year Dr Ashenden was born) with the participation and backing of many in the Church who were concerned at the injustice and inhumane treatment of gay men at that time.

Fifty years on from the decriminalisation of homosexuality that started with the Wolfenden committee, I would like to let the Church of England community know that, at a time when your existence is threatened by those that would do you harm, I stand with you as do many, many members of the LGBT+ community.

Disappointment as marriage is delayed

The Chief Minister, Senator Ian Gorst, has today announced that same-sex marriage will not be in place in Jersey by the end of this year due to complexities in the proposed law.

As Liberate understands it, the law that is being drafted is an overhaul of marriage law in its entirety that will encompass same-sex marriage, but will also sort out some of the anachronisms in the current marriage law. It seems that the same-sex marriage part has been easy to accomplish, but the rest of the overhaul is causing the problems.

We have known about complexities surrounding Jersey’s lack of a human embryology act, which impacts marriage legislation, since March of this year and, at that time, we were told that it would be sorted out and a first draft of the new law would be available at the end of April. This did not happen and we have been chasing the Chief Minister’s Department for an update since May.

Today’s news is, therefore, not surprising, but it will be extremely disappointing for the LGBT+ community in Jersey ahead of tomorrow’s CI Pride celebrations.

We will be reminding the Chief Minister that the delay impacts people’s lives directly. As anyone who has arranged a wedding will know it takes about a year in the planning to ensure that venues, caterers, bands, marquees etc are booked. For those same-sex couples hoping to marry in spring or summer next year this is going to throw their plans into doubt and make it impossible for them to book anything with any certainty.

When we meet with the Chief Minister next we will be pushing for clarity over the timeline and a commitment that, if they cannot sort out the complexities of other parts of the marriage law, same-sex marriage will, at the very least, be enacted by a specific deadline.

As a community, we have been very patient and have waited for over two years for this legislation. We do feel that we have been pushed to the back of the queue whilst other matters have been given priority by the Chief Minister.

The proposal for equal marriage was lodged in the States Assembly in July 2015.

First hate crime statistics released

The first hate crime statistics for Jersey have been released by the States of Jersey Police. The Police issued this statement:

You may have heard the term Hate Crime being used lately, but what exactly constitutes a Hate Crime? What is it? It is defined as an incident that is perceived by the victim or bystander to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s race, religion, sexual orientation, age, disability or against someone who is transgender.

Over the years we have worked really hard to better understand and work with all members of our community, and one aspect of this work is our Equality and Diversity Group. Consisting of officers and staff from across the force, the group focuses on the understanding and development of our service in this regard and looks at five particular strands relating to Hate Crime: faith, race, disability, age and LGBT.

The States of Jersey take this matter very seriously and in April 2015 a new Hate Crime Policy and Procedure was introduced, since then, all reports and incidents of Hate Crime are given absolute priority.

This July, the Minister for Home Affairs, Deputy Kristina Moore asked for Hate Crime and public order laws to be strengthened so more provisions are in place to deal with such offences.

To better understand the impact of Hate Crime on individuals and improve the support and service we offer to those affected, we commissioned an online survey to understand the experiences of Hate Crime, and the way in which such incidents are reported and dealt with in the Island.

The survey ran for several weeks during May and June this year and received 175 responses, the results of which show how the public perceive how we deal with verbal abuse and attacks. Racially aggravated hate crime was most common, with 68 people saying they had experienced this. 44 respondents say they were targeted because of their sexual orientation.

It appears that we still have some work to do to encouraging those affected to come forward as 145 people surveyed claimed that they didn’t report the matter to police. This was because of a number of reasons, either that they weren’t the victim, or they felt it had been dealt with at the time by other onlookers or that they thought there would be no evidence.

Someone worryingly said that they didn’t bother to report anymore as they felt no action was taken.

Some respondents said they had settled the matter themselves, or they were worried about revenge attacks or they simply couldn’t be bothered to report it. Some didn’t consider it to be a police matter.

The general consensus was that Hate Crime wasn’t a big problem in the Island, however, there were some who disagreed with that.

So, what can we do to encourage victims to come forward and report Hate Crime? We were offered a lot of suggestions, such as having a helpline, increasing police officers on the streets, making people more aware of their rights, talking to communities more and publicising what happens when reporting a Hate Crime.

Detective Superintendent Stewart Gull, Chair of Equality & Diversity forum, said, “We are pleased with this response and the feedback we have had. These results will help us to better determine how we engage with our community in the future and to ensure that anyone who falls victim to Hate Crime, or any crime for that matter, has the confidence to report it to us, in the knowledge that we will deal with the matter seriously and do everything in our power to achieve the best possible outcome for them. We are in the best possible position to be able to help anyone who has suffered any related criminal act or incident and are committed to playing our part in reducing discrimination. We regard any form of hate crime as an aggravating factor and will deal robustly with any form of offending.”

The newly formed Community Advisory Group, made up of representatives from across all the five strands and other influential groups, have already seen the survey results and are considering how it can be used effectively in the future.

Last year we joined forces with True Vision to utilise this online reporting mechanism for Jersey, providing a wide range of information, advice and guidance in respect to Hate Crime and an anonymous reporting function for anyone not wishing to speak with police.

The survey results can be seen here.

Would you be interested in an LGBT+ association?

Liberate have been listening to feedback from the LGBT+ community in Jersey and we know that many of you would like Liberate to create a means for the LGBT+ community to meet. This is something that we would also very much like to see happen as we receive regular enquiries from people, who are newly out or are visitors to the island, about where they might go to meet other LGBT+ people, not necessarily for dating purposes (although that is one reason!), but sometimes for a chat or a bit of support from people who understand.

As a small charity, we are unable to carry the financial risk involved in providing a permanent physical space. We also know that the business model of a “gay bar” no longer works for various reasons, which is why they are closing across the UK and why, ten or more years ago, it was no longer viable for one to continue in Jersey where the population of potential customers is even smaller than the UK.

We have put our thinking caps on and are looking to gather expressions of interest in the following proposition:

We would like to create an exclusively LGBT+ association called “Out”. The only exclusive thing about it would be that it would be for LGBT+ members; otherwise, it would be completely inclusive of race, age, ability, religion, marital status (it would not be just for singles!) and any other identity.

We would like to hold weekly meetings of Out, starting at 7.30pm until 9pm (unless it was a special meeting) – day to be decided by popular vote. Ordinary meetings might consist of listening to an invited speaker, planning a fundraising event for a charitable cause, sharing information about things that are happening to the LGBT+ community at home and abroad, doing a craft activity together. Special meetings might consist of a meal at a restaurant, a guided walk (in summer), a theatre or cinema trip, a sporting tournament (eg. pool, table tennis, darts), a board games evening (in winter), a quiz night, a straight allies’ night etc.

The programme of activities would be up to the Out committee and Out members to decide. There would be a minimal annual membership fee to cover admin and then members would only pay for any activities they attended that had a cost. New members could attend three meetings before deciding if they wanted to pay a membership fee to join.

We think this could work because this model for an association continues to endure and prove popular with all sorts of exclusive groups from the WI to the Scouts to the Freemasons. There is no similarly global movement for LGBT+ people and we think that it is time that there was. (Not that we are suggesting Out goes global immediately!)

The LGBT+ community no longer need to hide from the law and are an integrated part of society now, but they do have distinct interests as a group that are different from the non-LGBT+ population. Out would provide a new space in a way that recognises that LGBT+ people have other interests, just like everyone else, and that they deserve to have a publicly visible club that enables them to contribute to society, just as other groups do.

The Discrimination (Jersey) Law permits discrimination by clubs and associations on the grounds of a protected characteristic (and this would be discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender reassignment) if you have at least 25 members. So, we need to know that there are at least 25 people out there who would like to be the first members of Out and, who knows, maybe be there at the start a little bit of history!

If you think this is something that you would be interested in joining, please follow Out to see what’s happening. Links: