Gay couples in Jersey are not much closer to being able to marry in Jersey, after the Island's politicians agreed only to give it a bit more thought. Following a fractious and emotional debate in the States Chamber, Members voted simply to ask the Chief Minister to investigate allowing same-sex marriage, rather than supporting the move now.
The original proposal to allow gay marriage was brought by newly-elected Deputy Sam Mézec, but it was heavily amended by the Home Affairs Minister, and lay preacher, Senator Ian Le Marquand, before being agreed by the States. The Island's politicians voted by 24 to 18 to support Senator Le Marquand's amendments, which task the Chief Minister's department with investigating if gay marriage is "appropriate", and reporting back before the end of the year.
Although same-sex couples have been able to marry in the UK since March this year, Jersey’s legislation only allows civil partnerships. And if a married gay couple from elsewhere moves to Jersey, their relationship here is still only recognised as a civil partnership.
The debate was split between those members who saw it as a simple vote for equality, and that Jersey needed to treat gay couples in the same way that it treats heterosexual ones. However, other States members thought the proposal had been brought too quickly, and they needed time to consult, investigate, and find out what Islanders thought, in particular the religious groups.
It was a debate which split usual political alliances, with the Treasury Minister Senator Philip Ozouf finding himself on the same side as Deputies Southern, Mézec, Tadier and Le Cornu, and voting against the Chief Minister, Senator Ian Gorst.
Summing up his now amended proposition, Deputy Mézec said: "We are an assembly for all Islanders, not just certain sections of it. I think we have failed that today, what we have said is, '...we can't agree in principle that you are equal, instead we'll have a consultation to find out whether you are equal', and I don't think that's anywhere near good enough, in fact I think that's very depressing...I make no apologies for believing that the way you defeat bigotry is by standing up to it, it is not by accepting it".
The amended proposition was passed by 39 votes to 1, with just St Clement Deputy Gerard Baudins voting against even investigating whether allowing gay couples to marry was appropriate.
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