This week Guernsey moved a step closer to equal marriage with a clever proposal for a Union Civile law that would remove religion from laws related to marriage. You can read more about the story here or visit Liberate’s website for more information about the work they have been doing.
The proposed law would mean that all those who wanted to marry would do so in a civil ceremony. Thus, in one bold stroke, all marriages between two people, irrespective of their sex or gender, would be equal in Guernsey. The ability to legally marry a couple would be removed from religious organisations, which would also remove the knotty question for people of faith as to whether their church should “allow” same-sex marriage.
Under the proposal, there would be nothing to stop a couple celebrating their wedding through a religious service after they had legally tied the knot civilly. Under current EU legislation, there is no means by which a religious organisation could be forced to offer a celebratory service to a same-sex couple if it is against their religious beliefs. This should satisfy the churches that the legislation does not stop them from celebrating marriages as they understand them in the way that they wish.
Trans* Jersey stated that we would be in favour of adopting the Scottish model for same-sex marriage legislation, but this new development from Guernsey is even better. It does away with the UK system of two laws, one for opposite-sex couples and one for same-sex couples, in favour of one law for everyone.
We are in favour of adopting Guernsey’s proposal here in Jersey as it would solve the problem that trans people have when they transition within a marriage. Under Guernsey’s proposal, the marriage stays intact and the transition has no effect on its status. This also resolves the problem, perceived by some, that a person’s transition alters or diminishes the partnership somehow. Under this proposal, there is no alteration of the partnership and, therefore, the spouse has no reason to require a veto to stop their partner’s transition.
Deputy Sam Mezec lodged a proposition with the States of Jersey this week to debate same-sex marriage in July. We will have to wait for more news on what Jersey’s proposed legislation will look like, but Trans* Jersey hopes that it will resemble Guernsey’s forward-thinking and elegantly simple proposal.
Trans* Jersey supports Deputy Sam Mezec’s call for the States of Jersey to pass legislation to legalise same-sex marriage. Trans* Jersey goes further and would support a move for the island to model its law on Scotland’s equal marriage legislation.
We support equal marriage because, as the law currently stands in Jersey, a transman or transwoman in a marriage or civil partnership and wishing to legally transition (by acquiring a gender recognition certificate (“GRC”)) must first obtain a divorce from their spouse. Divorce and re-marriage (via a civil partnership or marriage, depending on which way you are going!) carries with it not just costs but implications for the continuation of legal documents, such as wills, and pension provisions.
This is the only known example where the law requires someone to forgo one right (the right to remain married to their partner) in order to access another (the right to private life afforded by the Gender Recognition Act). This anomaly has led to some transsexual people in the UK deciding not to acquire a GRC, as they argue their marriage vows were for life and they object to the idea that their partner (by remaining with them and true to those vows) would be unfairly treated by dissolving the original bond.
When Scotland was considering equal marriage legislation, James Morton of the Equality Network and Scottish Transgender Alliance released this video explaining why equal marriage matters to trans and intersex people. Trans* Jersey agrees with the points he made.
When England introduced the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, they got it wrong. They included what has come to be called the Spousal Veto, a clause that allows spouses of transgender people to effectively stop them from legally transitioning (i.e. acquiring a GRC). Sarah Brown, the LibDem politician and trans* activist, explains why this is a problem here.
When Scotland passed its legislation, the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014, they got it right. They removed the need for transgender people to dissolve their marriage before be able to acquire a GRC; they have enabled people to have gender-neutral marriage ceremonies; and they secured the removal of the spousal veto.
An explanation from the Equality Network on what Scotland’s recently passed equal marriage bill will mean for trans and intersex people.