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Deputy pushing for end to same-sex parent "discrimination"

Deputy pushing for end to same-sex parent

Wednesday 16 February 2022

Deputy pushing for end to same-sex parent "discrimination"

Wednesday 16 February 2022


"Imagine watching your wife going through a difficult birth to bring your child into the world and knowing that if anything happened to the baby you would not have the right to make decisions about your own child’s medical care."

"Imagine your own child being denied travel rights to your home country because the law does not recognise them as your child."

According to Deputy Louise Doublet, those are two "real life" examples of the difficulties faced by LGBTQ+ families in Jersey because the island's laws do not currently allow same-sex couples to share parental responsibility.

The matter was supposed to be resolved in 2017, but, with this still yet to be done, Deputy Doublet has now put forward a proposition asking the Minister for Children to prioritise work on a law that would allow same sex couples to share parental responsibility.

Deputy Louise Doublet is asking Deputy Scott Wickenden to ensure the draft law can be debated before the election.

Only the birth mother in a same-sex civil partnership is currently given parental status and responsibility following artificial insemination, with the other woman in the relationship having to adopt the child or seek a residential order to get the same recognition.

In a report accompanying her proposition, Deputy Doublet wrote that “same-sex couples do not have the same rights in respect of legal parent status and parental responsibility for their children as heterosexual/mixed-sex couples”, citing examples from local couples.

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Pictured: Deputy Louise Doublet's proposition will be debated at the next States sitting.

She said LGBTQ+ families had told her about the “costs, stress, and the lengthy court process” required to ensure both parents have parental responsibility for their child. 

“Total costs for lawyers and court fees are usually hundreds of pounds and often thousands, up to around £3,000 or more,” Deputy Doublet wrote.

“The processes are not always straightforward and families report feeling humiliated, disempowered and exhausted by the legal processes they are forced to undertake.”

Deputy Doublet has been campaigning for this legislation for several years. In April 2016, she asked Senator Ian Gorst, then Chief Minister, about the law and was told it would be updated in 2017 “to allow same sex parents who are named on the birth certificate to also automatically be granted parental responsibility and this will form part of the package of changes being brought forward in relation to same sex marriage”. However, that deadline was not met. 

In 2019, the Jersey Law Commission commissioned an independent report authored by Barrister Marisa Allman who noted that, although Jersey had a discrimination legislation, the law itself discriminated against many parents. 

Deputy Doublet said that law drafting instructions were due to be issued by the end of February 2021 but the deadline “came and went”.

Deputy Scott Wickenden eventually signed off the instruction to draw up the new legislation in April 2021 when he was Assistant Minister

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Pictured: The drafting instructions were issued in April 2021.

However, Deputy Doublet says that, nearly a year later, “weeks from the final sitting of the term, and the law is not ready.

“This is not good enough,” she wrote.

“There are families who are due to give birth shortly who have been advised that this law will be in place in time for their child, who are going to discover that both parents do not have parental responsibility for their child without a lengthy court process to achieve this,” she wrote. 

“There are also families who have not yet been through the court processes to acquire legal parent status for their existing child and are in limbo waiting for this legislation. Worse still, of course, there is nothing to say that a new States Assembly and a new Council of Ministers will not again delay this reform.”

Praising the officer dealing with the law as “diligent and focused”, Deputy Doublet said the delay is due to a “resourcing issue”, the lack of “sufficient political importance” being placed on the work, and the legislation being “de-prioritised”.

“It could surely have been completed in the nearly six years since Senator Gorst made his commitment as the Chief Minister at the time,” she argued.

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Pictured: "The lack of equality between same-sex and mixed-sex couples is hurtful and discriminatory," Deputy Doublet said.

“I cannot help wondering whether this legislation has not been prioritised because it affects a group of people who have historically been marginalised and therefore do not seek to campaign loudly when their rights are denied,” she added. 

“The lack of equality between same-sex and mixed-sex couples is hurtful and discriminatory and could finally be addressed if this legislation were brought forward.”

She is asking the Assembly to instruct the Minister that this issue is a “priority” and that the draft Law should be lodged for debate before the election. 

She concluded her report writing: “As we were told that this legislation was in the work programme for 2017, and again would be with the legislative drafters in February 2021, I am struggling to see why this deadline should be a challenge.”

Her proposition is due to be debated at the next States sitting on 1 March.

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