Jersey has passed an anti-discrimination law that protects people on the grounds of gender identity and sexual orientation for the first time.
As a crown dependency, the Bailiwick of Jersey – which has a population of just 100,000 – retains autonomy from the United Kingdom, and lags behind England, Scotland and Wales on most equality issues.
However, as part of a concerted push on the island to bring its legislation up to date, the States of Jersey has today overwhelmingly passed Sex Discrimination Regulations – extending current race-based anti-discrimination laws to LGBT people and women.
The new regulations – which were passed without opposition – are set to come into force on 1 September 2015, and give vital protections to LGBT people, alongside other protested groups.
37 members voted in favour of the third reading of the legislation, with 1 abstention and 11 absences.
The law states: “Acts of discrimination on grounds of sex, sexual orientation, gender reassignment and pregnancy and maternity will be prohibited in the same wide range of areas in which
race discrimination is currently prohibited.
The legislation allows islanders who experience discrimination on the grounds of their sexual orientation to bring a case before the Jersey Employment and Discrimination Tribunal.
If found guilty, individuals and organisations can be required to pay a fine of up to £10,000.
Christian May, Vice Chairman of LGBTQ group Liberate, told PinkNews in a statement: “The fact that the legislation passed through the States without question demonstrates that there is an appetite within Jersey’s government to do the right thing by its LGBTQ population.
“In Jersey, we don’t face the kind of abuse, harassment and violence that LGBTQ people face in other parts of the world, or even parts of the UK.
“However, LGBTQ individuals have to cope regularly with the kind of casual discrimination where jokes are made at their expense or comments are muttered under people’s breath.
“It’s subtle but, if faced on a regular basis, it can significantly erode self-confidence. Now, those who have to endure that in their workplaces or when out socialising can do something to stop it.”
Vic Tanner Davy of Trans* Jersey also praised the legislation for explicitly protecting intersex people, and people of all genders.
The law affords specific protections to intersex people, stating: “a person has intersex status if the person has physical, chromosomal, hormonal or genetic features that are neither wholly male or female; a combination of male or female; or neither male nor female.”
Davy told PinkNews in a statement: “This is an important inclusion that recognises a small and often misunderstood section of society.
“It makes clear the distinction between intersex and transgender people – a common misconception – and it allows those who were born neither biologically male nor female and who identify as intersex to do so, knowing that they do not have to choose man or woman if they do not want to and they will still be protected from discrimination under the law.”
“The trans* community in its widest sense is at its most vulnerable from physical and verbal abuse when it does not fit society’s ideal of men or women. This means that those early in their transition or those who cannot, or do not want to, transition are the most likely to experience discrimination.
“Jersey has recognised this and put in place protections. We are pleased that Jersey is leading the UK in this and we congratulate the States members on their decision today.”
Same-sex marriage is currently banned in Jersey and neighbouring Guernsey – with groups in both calling for them to catch up with England, Scotland and Wales.