Politicians in Jersey want to make discrimination against gay couples legal
Jersey is to debate a new law that would legalise discrimination against gay people.
Lawmakers have proposed an amendment to the country’s discrimination legislation that would hand traders the right to refuse goods and services to gay couples based on their “religious beliefs”.
The British Crown Dependency is yet to hold its first same-sex marriage – despite a majority of parliamentarians voting for the measure more than two years ago.
The legislation has become bogged down in amendments and is not expected to be implemented until later in 2018.
Jersey’s Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel has proposed the amendment allowing discrimination against same-sex couples in wedding services.
A petition by charity Liberate to block the measure has been signed by more than 4,000 people.
Two religious leaders have now urged parliament to reject the pro-discrimination clause.
Revd Graeme Halls, Superintendent of the Methodist Circuit in Jersey said: “This is a debate about how we ensure all of our community has equal rights and responsibilities, and that means that one group does not and cannot have the right to discriminate against another, and certainly not for that to be enshrined in law.
“Surely we seek a world where all are respected, all are shown equal care, and all this because, whether we have faith or not, we are one humanity, and for those with faith, we believe all are equally loved by God, made in God’s image, one Body, many parts.”
A member of the Church of England’s General Synod, Jayne Ozanne, said: “Anything that seeks to divide and separate us, that looks to demonise one group as the ‘other’ can only ever cause pain and suffering, particularly for the most vulnerable in our society.
“My prayer would be that we build a society that knits us closer together, that we enshrine the values that make us thrive and that we seek to embrace the diversity and equality of all.
“To do otherwise would be to create a society that is defined by its divisions, which builds walls rather than bridges, and so opens the door to further discrimination against those who are our neighbours.”
Jersey makes its own law through an independently elected parliament, but delegates foreign affairs and security to the UK. It is not a full member of the European Union.
Northern Ireland continues to refuse same-sex marriage, despite Ireland and England, Wales and Scotland having the measure.
Last week the newly appointed Northern Ireland Secretary compared calls for marriage equality to accessing broadband.
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Currently, it is hoped the marriage law will be effective in Jersey by spring 2018, but the legislation has been held up by a series of delays.
“The delay impacts people’s lives directly. As anyone who has arranged a wedding will know it takes about a year in the planning to ensure that venues, caterers, bands, marquees etc are booked,” said Vic Tanner-Davy, LGBT group Liberate Jersey’s CEO, to ITV.
“For those same-sex couples hoping to marry in spring or summer next year this is going to throw their plans into doubt and make it impossible for them to book anything with any certainty.
“As a community, we have been very patient and have waited for over two years for this legislation. We do feel that we have been pushed to the back of the queue whilst other matters have been given priority by the Chief Minister,” Tanner-Davy added.