The campaign to bring in same-sex marriages in Jersey has hit another stumbling block, this time over whether marriage ceremony suppliers, such as bakers or florists, should have the right to refuse the business.
Senator Sarah Ferguson raised the issue at a recent Scrutiny meeting with the Chief Minister - she says that the same-sex marriage law shouldn't be going ahead until its resolved. Recently in Northern Ireland, a Christian baker was fined for refusing to make a cake supporting same-sex marriage.
During the latest Corporate Services Scrutiny hearing with the Chief Minister, Senator Ferguson asked if the soon-to-be introduced same-sex marriage law would make such allowances for the protection of retailers, florists and other tradesmen. The Chief Minister replied that there were no particular safeguards included within the same-sex marriage law, as they would come under the anti-discrimination law.
Senator Gorst said: "We are continuing with the legalisation of same-sex marriage knowing there remains some concerns for some individuals. But nowhere else has found a legal remedy for it yet."
Pictured: Same-sex couples should be able to get married in Jersey starting from Spring 2018.
Senator Ferguson then asked, "Should be we doing it (introducing same-sex marriage) before we find a remedy?," adding later on "Do they need to insist that somebody should make them a cake against their freedom of conscience?" She told Express that she and her team have been researching the issue and that she aims to speak to the Attorney General to make sure that religious freedom and freedom of conscience will be respected. She said: "It is not a big job but rather a question of common sense which is incredibly lacking at the moment."
She added: "I have no real opinion on same-sex marriage, it is up to the people involved and the cleric who does the ceremony. But I think it should be fair play on both sides. Why should people lose their livelihood because they disagree? People are entitled to have different opinions and as long as they are not totally criminal why should they be penalised?"
But for Vic Tanner-Davy, CEO of equality and diversity charity Liberate, it is a "complete and utter misinterpretation of the law." He explained that same-sex couples who enter civil partnerships are able to get cakes, caterers and venues for their ceremony and that no one's plan has ever been jeopardised by someone refusing to serve. He said: "The law concerning the provision for supplying goods and services is already in place within the anti-discrimination law. This has no bearing on the marriage law and has nothing to do with people getting married. It looks to me like a red herring but this is no grounds to use to call for the same-sex legislation not to come in."
The same-sex legislation was due to be in place by the end of the year but the Chief Minister announced it had been delayed on the eve of the recent Pride parade, due to underestimating the complexity of the legalisation. Senator Gorst met with Liberate on Monday and assured them that same-sex legislation would be in place by Spring 2018, which Mr Tanner-Davy said will give more clarity to the couples who are already busy planning their wedding ceremonies.
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