Same-sex marriage will happen in 2017

stateschamberThe States of Jersey have voted overwhelmingly in favour of same-sex marriage. The Chief Minister, Senator Ian Gorst, asked States members to decide whether they were for or against four principles.

(a) to agree, in principle, that appropriate legislation should be brought forward for approval to allow same-sex couples to get married in Jersey, with the legislation to:
(i) include civil marriage and religious marriage with appropriate safeguards in place to protect the rights of religious organisations and their officials who do not wish to conduct same-sex marriages;
(ii) include allowing people in civil partnerships to convert their partnership into marriage;
(iii) include retention of terms such as ‘husband and wife’, ‘mother and father’ in legislation;
(iv) not include a spousal veto in respect of gender recognition;

This principle was passed 37:4 with 1 abstention and 7 absentees. The full result can be found here.

(b) to agree, in principle, that current legislation should be amended to confer parental responsibility automatically on unmarried fathers who are named on birth certificates;

This principle was passed 43:1 with 5 absentees. The full result can be found here.

(c) to agree, in principle, that new legislation should be brought forward for approval to allow for the introduction of a system of divorce and dissolution making it a legal requirement to access and use mediation services subject to appropriate safeguards and human rights considerations;

This principle was passed 41:3 with 5 absentees. The full result can be found here.

(d) to request that the Chief Minister bring forward for approval by the States Assembly, no later than end January 2017, the draft legislation necessary to give effect to these proposals.

This principle was passed by 42 members with 2 abstentions and 5 absentees. The full result can be found here.

The full proposition can be downloaded here.

gay-marriage-wedding-vows-100815-02Clearly, principle (a) (iv) is the most important for Jersey’s trans community as it ensures that none of us will be asked to choose between having our gender recognised legally via a gender recognition certificate (“GRC”) and our marriage. It is the case, in England and Wales, that those who transition within a marriage (or civil partnership) and wish to acquire their GRC must divorce (or dissolve the partnership) and remarry as a same-sex couple (or opposite-sex couple). To do this, they must get their partner’s permission. If the spouse does not give permission, they effectively “veto” the trans person’s ability to get a GRC and have their gender legally recognised. It is an impossible choice to ask someone to make – their gender or their marriage?

Jersey will be following the Scottish legal model where the marriage seamlessly changes from opposite-sex to same-sex (or vice versa) on the issuing of the GRC. However, this causes a problem as we have outsourced the issuing of GRC’s to other recognised jurisdictions around the world. Our Gender Recognition (Jersey) Law 2010, therefore, relies on our ability to obtain a GRC from a recognised jurisdiction – the most logical being England and Wales. But, because England and Wales require a trans person to divorce before a GRC is issued, then Jersey people applying for their GRC will be subject to the spousal veto “by the back door”.

As the above loophole shows, there is much work still to be done. This is why the expected delivery date for the legislation is 2017. This gives us time to work with the Chief Minister to ensure that a satisfactory outcome is achieved on the subject of gender recognition. Watch this space for updates…

Mx title now available

socsecTrans* Jersey has been contacted by the Social Security Department to let us know that Mx has now been included as a gender neutral title option in their computer systems. This is good news for all those who identify as in between the simple binary of man or woman.
The department have issued the following statement about the change: “Transgender people in Jersey will be protected against discrimination from September this year and so this is an appropriate change for the Department to make to ensure that our customers are addressed by us as they wish to be addressed.

We do not know yet whether any other States Departments intend to make a similar change.

We have not changed the title options on any of our forms as this would require a much bigger piece of work, but it may happen in the future.

They have also issued the following guidance to their employees:

What is Mx?
Mx is the most commonly used title that does not indicate gender (i.e. instead of Mr, Mrs, Miss etc) and it may be used by people who do not identify as either a man or woman. It may be  pronounced as ‘mux’, ‘mix’ or ‘mixter’. Mx has been adopted by many major national institutions in the UK and is a permitted title option for the DWP, DVLA, HMRC, NHS, Identity and Passport Service, Post Office, some local city councils and banks, universities and utilities companies.

What this means for the customer
A customer may request that their title is recorded in our systems as Mx.  If a customer requests this, you simply make the change. We do not need any details or explanation of why this is the customer’s preference. You should never make assumptions or offer this option to a customer if they have not requested it.

When a customer makes this request, it would be appropriate for you to explain the extent to which Mx will be used in our correspondence with them in the future, i.e. letters and cheques.

UKIA-Trans* Jersey alliance

Trans* Jersey is very proud to announce that it has become an associate member of the UK Intersex Association (UKIA). The United Kingdom Intersex Association (UKIA) is an education, advocacy, campaigning and support organisation which works on behalf of Intersex people.

UKIAUKIA has the following aims:

  • to educate, inform and campaign in order to remove the shame, secrecy, social prejudice, ignorance and stigmatization that surround Intersex people;
  • to campaign against the pathologising and medicalisation of Intersex peoples’ lives;
  • to campaign against the use of surgery and other medical treatments for coercing Intersex people to physically conform to cultural definitions of “normal”;
  • to campaign against the widespread practice of withholding information from Intersex people regarding the medical implications of being born Intersex, where these exist;
  • to campaign for the same status and respect for human rights accorded to all others to be equally accorded to Intersex people.

As the above list of aims suggests, there is a lot of work to be done around educating people about what Intersex means and the reality of the lives Intersex people live, not least with the medical profession.

Many of the UKIA aims could apply equally to the trans* community, which is why Trans* Jersey sees this association with the UKIA as a good fit for the work being done in Jersey to improve the lives of all those who, for whatever reason, fall outside of the gender binary.

There are other aims that the UKIA highlights that are unique to the Intersex community and Trans* Jersey hopes to work with the UKIA to educate and inform the general public, the medical profession in Jersey and the States of Jersey about these specific requirements.

To support this work, Trans* Jersey has signed up to the following UKIA principles:

  • Total opposition to cosmetic surgery on intersex infants in an attempt to “normalise” their appearance;
  • Rejection of the concept that the human species exists as a physical binary (male & female) model and contends that anything which deviates from this stereotype is “abnormal”;
  • Accept that all individuals, whatever their identification (male, female, other etc.) are to be respected and have the right to equal opportunities both socially and occupationally;
  • Support the campaign to secure the rights of intersex people to change their birth registration to match their personal identification, rather than that which was chosen for them;
  • Rejection of the pathologisation of intersex conditions (such as the use of demeaning terminology e.g. “Hermaphrodite”, “Disorders of Sex Development (DSD)” etc.

It is hoped that together Trans* Jersey and the UKIA can make a difference to our island’s Intersex residents.

States of Jersey consultation on equal marriage

The States of Jersey are currently asking for comments from the public on proposals for an equal marriage and partnership law. They have published a consultation paper, which can be downloaded here.

The consultation process closes on 22 October 2014 and the Chief Minister will report to the States in November 2014.

What the consultation does not do is ask whether a respondent is in favour of same-sex marriage. As far as the consultation is concerned that argument has been had and the island has to move on. Same-sex marriage is going to happen. It is now a question of how. The consultation paper offers a number of options for equal marriage and tackles a couple of other inequalities in current marriage law at the same time.

The consultation document is quite weighty but it is well-written and researched. It is also progressive in its thinking and doesn’t just copy what other jurisdictions have done. It offers three options for same-sex marriage:

  • Same-sex civil marriage only
  • Same-sex civil marriage and same-sex religious marriage
  • Same-sex and opposite-sex civil marriage only (also known as civil union)

All three options provide a means for someone to transition within a marriage without having to dissolve an existing union. Trans* Jersey is most keen to ensure that any legislation brought in does not contain the so-called Spousal Veto that is enshrined within the England and Wales Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 and that, should option 1 or 2 be adopted, any law is modeled on the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014.

The other section of specific interest to trans* islanders is part D that deals with adultery as grounds for divorce. As people who may or may not have the genitals that are expected of a man or woman, the legal definition of adultery doesn’t always make sense within a marriage in which one or both partners are trans*. In a farsighted move, the States are proposing either doing away with adultery as grounds for divorce or redefining adultery to include same-sex acts. Clearly, removing adultery altogether is the simpler option here.

We have requested involvement in any forum convened by the States to discuss the proposed legislation and were involved in the first round of meetings on 29 July 2014.

statesGet involved

Whilst Trans* Jersey encourages you to complete the online survey, we would also like to receive your comments about the States’ proposal regarding equal marriage and partnerships.

We believe that by speaking together as a group of trans* islanders our comments on the consultation will carry more weight.

Our partner organisation Liberate’s Jersey group has already responded and you can read their response here.

We therefore invite you to email us with your comments, suggestions, thoughts or concerns at admin@transjersey.org

A week of contradictions

On Tuesday 8 July 2014, the States of Jersey approved an amendment by Senator Ian le Marquand to the proposition to allow same-sex marriage that had been brought by Deputy Sam Mezec. The amendment effectively stalled the progress towards equal marriage in Jersey by making it subject to a consultation by the Chief Minister, Senator Ian Gorst. Apparently, many of those who voted for the amendment did so because of the immoderate language being used by supporters of the original bill. The words “homophobia” and “homophobic” were used on more than one occasion to describe others with opposing views.

On the very same day, Trans* Jersey received two emails from trans* islanders, independently, reporting that they had been the victims of abuse and assault. In both cases, they were physically at risk of injury. In both cases, the attacks were simply because the victims were trans*. As you can imagine, Tuesday was not a good day for Trans* Jersey.

However, the two reports put the States’ debate into perspective and meant that we did not vent our disappointment over the States’ decision by calling-out politicians on Facebook or Twitter as some did. Apart from acknowledging that there might have been any number of reasons why a States’ member voted against same-sex marriage, such as feeling ill-prepared for the debate, there is another reason why we should be moderate in our response to setbacks in the struggle for equal marriage.

Nobody in the States’ chamber on Tuesday was homophobic. Those who have been the victims of homophobia, transphobia or biphobia know it when they see it. *Phobia isn’t an off-colour joke or a misuse of a pronoun or a disagreement over equal marriage. It is a deep-seated hatred of LGBT people that makes a person capable of acts of verbal or physical cruelty to the target of his or her hate. Until you have been the victim of a hate crime, you cannot know *phobia. There is something in the eyes, something in the tone of voice, that LGBT people recognise as *phobic. It’s when the adrenalin starts pumping and the body goes into fight or flight mode.

When a white, heterosexual, male calls people who don’t share his political view on same-sex marriage “homophobic”, he needs to be very careful. Overuse and misuse of any word can remove its power. Homophobia, transphobia and biphobia are important words to the LGBT community for they are they only way we have of describing the most heinous of crimes against us. These words must not be cheapened by those who are unlikely ever to be the target of a homophobic, transphobic or biphobic attack.

Trans* Jersey would like to say to our allies: thank you for your support, thank you for fighting for equality for us, thank you for being allies, but please be careful of the language that you use when you speak on our behalf.

rallykingstreetAnd then, on Saturday 12 July 2014, this happened. Estimates of the number of people who turned out vary but there were certainly hundreds, possibly 1,000 people there. King Street was filled with love, pride and lots of rainbows for what was Jersey’s first ever LGBTQ rights march or equality rally or pride parade. In the end, nobody was sure what it was and, actually, it didn’t seem to matter. We were there to show that we exist. Every human population has an LGBT community. Visible or forced underground, it is there. Our detractors conveniently forget that fact but, sometimes, we do too and when we do, even an island of 9 miles by 5 miles where “everyone knows everyone”, can seem like a lonely place. Saturday was about reminding ourselves that we aren’t alone, that there are others like us, others who also share our desire for equality.

Rallies often don’t accomplish much but this one felt different. This one felt like a moment of change. Maybe because, during the week, the feelings of anger towards the States for their decision dissipated and were replaced with a feeling of solidarity. Trans* Jersey thanks the organisers of Saturday’s event for being the catalyst that brought us all together in Liberation Square. Every LGBT person in Jersey now knows, for sure, that there is a community here to which they belong and who will stand up for their beliefs in a fair and equal society.

Press release: 8 July 2014

Trans* Jersey is very disappointed by the decision of the States of Jersey to vote in favour of Senator Ian Le Marquand’s amendment to require the Chief Minister consult on any change in the law to allow same-sex marriage in Jersey.

gay-marriage-ukTrans* Jersey’s founder, Vic Tanner Davy, said: “We recognise that, as an issue, this is not a high priority for the majority of States members personally. As a result, it was clear that a number of States members had not done their homework and felt ill-prepared to vote on the matter. This was demonstrated most clearly by those concerned about the ‘unintended consequences’ of allowing equal marriage. Anyone who has studied the issue in detail will know that there are no ‘unintended consequences’ to equal marriage. We know that, once States members have had a chance to do their research over the summer, any concerns they may have will be put to bed and equal marriage will go forward.

“Today was a wake-up call to States members that they need to do their homework and come back to the chamber in full possession of the facts about why the island’s LGBT community needs this legislation. This is not a proposition that is going to go away and it is one on which members need to be clear where they stand as it will be an election issue in the autumn.”

Consortium membership

Trans* Jersey is very pleased to be able to announce that, as of today, we are members of Consortium. This will provide us with access to loads of resources for our members and other groups doing similar work in the UK.

Consortium is a national membership organisation focusing on the development and support of LGBT groups, projects and organisations; so they can deliver direct services and campaign for individual rights. They are mandated by their Membership to focus on the following areas:

SHARE: To collect a wide range of information relevant to the LGBT sectors and share it widely

  • Build and maintain a national website in partnership with the sector
  • Create and update a database of LGBT organisations and their activities
  • Coordinate the production of a State of the Sector report annually

SUPPORT: Link the sector together

  • Host events such as national LGBT conferences with time for Members to discuss their own needs
  • Create and support specialist networks
  • Help Members to form partnerships to work together on particular projects
  • Capacity building work focused on addressing identified sector gaps with small organisations

SHOUT: Be a voice for the LGBT sector

  • Be one of the voices for LGBT sector representation to highlight its needs
  • Coordinate Member organisations to provide the voice for LGBT people
  • Including setting up of a Members’ Council

STORE: Lead work with LGBT organisations to develop a shared vision for the whole sector

  • Be a repository for good practice
  • Supporting the standardisation of research across the sector to build a better national picture of LGBT needs and experiences

Recently, Consortium delivered the Trans Manifesto to the UK government. Trans* Jersey wholeheartedly supports the aims of the document. It is an important step and one we need to monitor in the island because, should its demands come to fruition, it will have repercussions for trans* individuals in Jersey, too. You can read more about it here.

Click Consortium’s logo below to find out more about who they are and what they do.Consortium_logo