The 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.
Clearly, 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…