Currently, when a lesbian couple have a child (through assisted reproduction), only the birth mother is recognised as a legal parent and is named on the birth certificate in Jersey. When a different-sex couple go to register the birth of a child (however conceived), the husband is recognised on the birth certificate automatically.
In the UK, when a lesbian couple register a birth, the birth mother’s civil partner or spouse is also considered a legal parent and can be named on the birth certificate. This is not the case in Jersey, and couples are required to go through the courts in order to obtain parental responsibility for both parents.
This is an inequality, and Liberate would like to see the same rights for same-sex parents as different-sex parents when registering the birth of a child.
The proposed solution would be to replicate the process that is in place in the UK. This would mean that the birth mother’s civil partner or spouse would be considered a legal parent and could be named on the birth certificate, if they were married or civil partners at the time of conception. The birth mother would also be able to sign an agreement through the fertility clinic to name her partner (if not married or in a civil partnership) as the second legal parent.
In the UK, this falls within the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008. Because Jersey does not (and is unlikely to ever) provide specialist fertilisation and embryology services, the island would not require such a heavyweight law in order to resolve the problem of registration of births.
And, at its heart, this campaign is about protecting the child of a same-sex couple who have chosen to bring a life into the world. As the law stands in Jersey such a child could be left parentless in the devastating scenario that the birth mother dies after the child is born and before her partner has been able to complete the process of becoming the second legal parent – despite the fact that the child may have been conceived using the second legal parent’s eggs!
Progress: We have been told that the law is currently in draft. It reforms all of the problems above and also addresses parental rights for gay couples using surrogacy or adoption routes.
It is expected to be ‘debated’ in the States early in the second quarter of 2023. It is likely to pass because of the ‘in principle’ decision already taken by the States in 2022.
The law then goes to Privy Council, which will be a minimum of 6 weeks. It will return to the States for an ‘appointed day act’, i.e. a decision on the day the law will come into force.
Alongside this are a number of rules for the Royal Court that must be written to instruct them on how to carry out the new law, which could take until the autumn.
Realistically, couples will be looking at the end of 2023 before the law is in force.