Photo: a lesbian couple and their children

Same-sex parental rights

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. Liberate believes that it could sit within existing legislation, such as the Children (Jersey) Law 2002.

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 spoken to a number of same-sex parents about the problems with the system in Jersey. The most pressing problem is the inequality for female same-sex couples going through assisted reproduction as outlined above.

Whilst there are problems with surrogacy for male same-sex couples, the problems are the same for different-sex couples going through the surrogacy process, so there is no inequality. The system needs improving for everyone.

The process of adoption for same-sex couples has been reported to us as very good. Well done to Fostering and Adoption Jersey!

We have also met with the States department working on reforming the Children’s Law in Jersey. The Children’s Legislative Programme document, which can be read here, confirms that the necessary reforms to the law in order that female same-sex couples can be named on the birth certificate of their child will be undertaken in phase 1 under the Parental Responsibility Orders section.

At the meeting we stated that many couples would like a retrospective correction of their child’s birth certificate to put right the inaccuracy recorded at birth. This has not been included in the work outlined to date because it would not require a legislative change, but we were assured it would be included as a procedural change, in consultation with the Superintendent Registrar.

It was hoped that the legislative changes might have been in place by summer 2020, but then the coronavirus pandemic happened…

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