Deputies to debate civil unions within the next year

DEPUTIES will debate whether to accept a States-recognised civil union for both heterosexual and same-sex couples within the next year.

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The Policy Council recently met to discuss a paper on ‘Union Civile’, which sets out options for work on a non-discriminatory system to provide legal recognition for long-term relationships whether homosexual or heterosexual.

Deputy John Gollop, pictured, yesterday raised the issue in a question to Chief Minister Peter Harwood in the States.

Deputy Harwood said the Policy Council had identified and agreed the options and work streams with a view to bringing a proposal to the States within the next 12 months – resources permitting.

Liz Taylor-Kerr, 40, has been with her female partner for around 13 years.

The couple had a ceremony in 2004 to recognise their commitment to each other but it was not legal.

‘It has been pushed back and back for so long so for the States to even be looking at it and debating it shows it is at the forefront of their minds and they are more likely to push it through,’ the former island basketball star said. ‘I think society is moving in the right direction but with legislation it just takes longer.’

Comments for: "Deputies to debate civil unions within the next year"

william

Is it not about time we all just agree gay, straight, bi what ever you are you all deserve the same rights as each other, it shouldn't be any more confusing then that. We all pay the same bills eat the same food breath the same air, we aren't any different to each other.

Fredthe NUKE

Sorry - i am agaisnt it. I think there is a sanctitiy with marriage. let people have some fun but when its time to grow up and get on with life and start a family. Get married. civil partnership is fine for the unattached, but get married and make a commitment the proper way.

CameraShy

I must admit, this civil partnership thing does feel like a bit of a compromise. They should just skip to legalising gay marriage.

Ideally AFTER the separation of Church and state.

Pete

But I think you'll find that gay people aren't allowed to do that in Guernsey even though they now can in the UK.

melc

As long as you don't cause harm on to others.

Live and let Live

Jeffers

William - I don't think we do "pay the same bills", I believe that people who make a lifelong commitment to a husband or wife get help with income tax relief. I don't think people that make a child here and there, whilst changing partners every time the music stops, get as much allowance.

Yes

How has it taken this long? Proposal? Debate? Resources?

Update the wording in the current marriage legislation and be done with it. Blimey.

Lindsay Mitchell

I am quite shocked that Civil Partnerships have not already been in place. As CameraShy said, I think it should be skipped in favour of full same-sex marriage.

Society benefits immensely when as many people as possible are in a position to make a firm and legal committment to each other, and sexual preference should have nothing to do with it. Maybe allowing same-sex couples to get married will encourage more opposite-sex couples to get married too!

With regard to religious wedding ceremonies, the Church will first need to get a grip on who they are allowing to get married at the moment. A religious ceremony for a straight couple is quite pointless and shouldn't really be allowed if it's the only time the couple are ever going to attend church or they do not believe in God. In those circumstances, it is somewhat disingenuous of the Church to allow such weddings knowing the people getting married in a church are not actually religious.

islander

i believe in civil union if it means reducing this over populated island

No Confidence

You must be ill informed , Gay couples linked with the new Population Regime Agenda will be able to adopt foreign children and live here anyway, your statement is not true. Their Child will be local by 8 years.

Local Dad

I don't see the link between civil partnerships and population reduction and homosexual couples can already adopt foreign children (along with cohabiting heterosexual couples and singles) under the current law and will be able to whether this passes or not.

PLP

What has become clear over the years that same sex marriage has been debated is that the crux of the argument is the definition of marriage - and it's pretty obvious that the meaning and definition of marriage varies hugely among different people. As a Christian I believe that marriage is the lifelong union between one man and one woman; I also believe there is a fundamentally spiritual element to it. Friends who are atheists don't believe there's anything spiritual about marriage at all - it's just an expression of their love, whilst other friends who are gay believe they should be able to marry their same sex partner.

In my opinion it is not the business of the state to either define what marriage means or impose a certain point of view on society - whether "traditional" or "progressive." After all, when you think about it legally speaking marriage is no more than a legally binding contract. The remit of the state should simply be to legally recognise the wish of two consenting adults to be joined together for the purposes of recognising next of kin, taxation, inheritance and other legal matters.

That is why I propose we do away with legal "marriage" altogether. Instead, every union should be legally recognised by a civil partnership. People are then free to "marry" in a ceremony that reflect their own individual values and beliefs. Another positive to my idea is that we will be able to do away with the daft restrictions in terms of location - people will be free to marry where they choose and have whoever they choose officiating over the ceremony.

I believe Guernsey can lead the way in this and show itself to be a truly tolerant society, where people with different values and beliefs can coexist together whilst remaining true to their conscience without interference from the state.

I'd be interested to know what others think.

Blaze

Great idea. I agree.

Martino

Me Too PLP. I agree entirely. Marriage should not be legally recognised by the state - only civil partnerships no matter whether they be man with woman, man with man, woman with woman. Leave marriage to the church and religions. It's their thing, it is nothing to do with us non believers and certainly should not be anything to do with the state.

Personally I find it ridiculous that heterosexual non believers want to be 'married' because and I find it even more bizarre that some gay couples want to be married whether they are believers or not.

PLP

Thanks for your comments Blaze and Martino. I should clarify that the idea I've proposed isn't mine, I heard it from a local religious leader who mentioned it to me years ago. I won't say who as I think people should speak for themselves in public forums - but the more I think about it the more it makes sense to me.

Let's say hypothetically speaking that Guernsey became a fundamentalist atheist state that annulled all religious marriages. I would still consider myself married whether the state agreed with me or not. Interestingly enough I know some gay couples who think the same way now.

I consider my marriage vows to be one of the most important and sacred things I've ever done in my life. What defines our marriage is what we read in the Bible and more than anything what makes it so important is that we made those promises to each other before God. The secular legal aspects are of secondary importance - it's love that binds us, not law.

Peter

The main problem I can see is when one half of a couple is a Christian who only believes in a sexual union within marriage but their loved one is an atheist for whom taking religious vows would be dreadful hypocrisy. The current option of a civil marriage allows a solution which suits both parties. It looks like many other countries are now starting to allow civil marriages between gay couples too. What's the harm in just following suit?

PLP

Thanks for your comments Peter. I don't see how the option of a civil wedding would suit both parties as current legislation doesn't permit any religious content in a civil wedding ceremony. The Christian would be denied the chance to express their faith - hardly suitable as I suspect most Christians would find a ceremony that denies them the opportunity to express their faith as distasteful as a committed atheist would find making vows before God in church.

Under the solution I've proposed the couple would be able to arrange a wedding ceremony based on their own values and beliefs. The argument on how they'd manage that with such diametrically opposed beliefs systems would be theirs alone! ;-) The legal side of their union would be sorted by the civil partnership.

In response to your final comment, why should Guernsey follow other countries if there is a better way? I think the idea I've put forward is actually more egalitarian as it allows everyone to define their union according to their own values, rather than having a definition imposed on them by the state. I don't know about you but I think the less interference by the state we have in the private lives of consenting adults the better.

Peter

I understand your points but I somehow doubt that many couples regard being married by a registrar at the Greffe by their choice as "interference in their lives by the state".

Also while the Christian part of my "odd couple" may regret the lack of religious trappings he or she would at least by assured that by only entering a sexual union after being married they had stayed true to their belief system. And actually marriage between believers and non-believers is really quite common. What do you suggest for them? A relationship outside marriage for the Christian or an exercise in pure hypocrisy for the unbeliever?

PLP

Thanks for replying Peter. Every situation is unique so it would be up to each individual couple. If I were asked to give advice in such a situation I would suggest they look at it positively as a great opportunity to share their expectations and beliefs about marriage together, work out how they can reconcile any differences and tailor a ceremony specifically for them.

I'm not saying this alternative system might not raise some difficult questions for your "odd couple" but that's part and parcel of being in any human relationship!

Gavin St Pier

PLP - this is exactly what is envisaged with the 'Union Civile' concept. (Marriage would be effectively then a matter for each religion/religious faction to define/recognise.)

PLP

Thanks Deputy St Pier - that's good to hear.

Roger

Non-consummation of marriage is grounds for annulment of marriage. If same sex marriage was allowed, what would be the position regarding "non-consummation"? Would any married same sex couple be able to annul their marriage at any time of their chosing without additional grounds?

peter

That's pushing it a bit as an argument. Priests often seem happy to marry two 90 somethings who meet in a nursing home. Do they really expect those marriages to be consummated?

No Confidence

Glad all those that agree with this are all Atheists I take it ?

PLP

I take it you're replying to my posts (forgive me if I'm wrong). Having nailed my colours to the mast as a Christian who believes the Bible and holds "traditional" views on marriage I'm hardly trying to pander to Atheists!

Blaze doesn't nail his/her colours to the mast so I don't know what his/her position is but nevertheless, yes I am pleased that people like Martino and Gavin St Pier (who are both Atheists I understand) like the idea as it demonstrates that there is support across the belief spectrum.

We don't have to hold the same beliefs to agree that the relationships, convictions, religious beliefs and lifestyles of consenting adults are no business of the state. I think that view is held by many people across the entire belief spectrum who hold on to concepts like freedom of speech and freedom of conscience. Laws don't change hearts and personally I think only extremists want to use the state to force adherence to a particular belief system. I don't want to return to the days of persecuting gays and burning heretics any more than I want to live under sharia law.

Welchy

Maybe not no confidence. Lots of people like getting married even though they don't do the church thing. If only church goers can get married and the rest of us have to have something else, its not very good.

It might work two ways, the people might go to church for a bit because they have marriage or maybe the church goers will be outsiders like menomites who have different rules to the man in the street.

It will be funny if only about 200 couples are married in the hole of Guernsey.

It is going to be like a new place soon, we will have hardly anyone married drugs on sale in the paper shop, schools shut down locals not allowed to live here, no king edward a bankrupt Board of health and a really good airport. Who could ever guess this would happen.

PLP

Welchy - thanks for your comments. I don't think it will stop people getting married at all, they will still be free to marry in a venue of their choosing. I may be wrong but think the difficulty you're having is that you are thinking of marriage purely in legal terms. I don't think that's the best way to look at it though as if my history is correct, state intervention in marriage is relatively new - for example in the UK, the Marriage Act 1753 was the first time a formal ceremony was a statutory requirement.

Before then it was the role of the church - and even then the requirement for witnesses and an officiating priest wasn't around until the 16th century - previously the church would simply accept a couple's word that they had exchanged wedding vows. I'm not sure about Guernsey history, the earliest marriage law I could find was in 1919 - perhaps a local historian would enlighten me.

It's also worth noting that historically the predominant reason for marriage was rarely love. Previously, motivations to marry were many and varied - and even in some cultures that's the case now. I think it's fair to say that, for the vast majority of people marriage is far more than a legal contract - or most people it is an expression of mutual love.....and whilst I'm not suggesting we have no legal framework at all, I am suggesting that the States confines itself to matters of legal recognition alone.

Now you must excuse me as I think I've made my position clear enough and I'm getting a little verbose!! :-)

Welchy

Thanks I didnt know getting married was not an old thing. I just saw it in films and thought it had been round for ever.

Maybe a new system will work. These days people have a few anyway so it probably wont make much difference. It will be easier to change because you wont have to wait for divorce papers to wait for.

Dani

I'm of a completely different viewpoint.

As far as I'm concerned everyone should have equal rights to get married. I do not define it to just being between a man and a woman. Marriage is an act anyone can take part it and redefining to suit a personal opinion does not change that. It is simply saying you want to spend the rest of your life with someone and have this recognized legally. Not long ago in parts of the world they defined it is as being just between white people. I think that is racist. I think saying only men and women can do it is homophobic. In some parts of the world it is arranged and not chosen, even among children. Before all this is was to secure trade and keep allegiances going. Marriage has been around a long time before Christians. It exists in other religions also. The church just has a monopoly on it in our current culture and location.

I am also of the opinion that people have a right to hold private beliefs - so they can be homophobic if they want in private. They can think whatever they like. If however they act on it to mistreat another human being and withdraw rights for them they themselves enjoy it is clearly discrimination and should not be able to do it. I think a persons rights are more important than an interpretation of the word of an entity that cannot be proven to exist. To allow people to discriminate on the basis they are religious is religious privilege. We should all be held to the same laws and have the same rights - no-one should be exempt from them. If one church is particularly homophobic I doubt people would get married there anyhow.

plp

It's good to hear from you Dani. We agree different groups and cultures have different definitions of marriage (thankfully Guernsey takes a dim view of forced / child marriages) but if union civile came in the law would no longer attempt to provide one so it's a moot point.

Any consenting adult couple wanting to marry could but if they wanted legal recognition they would need a union civile. As weddings wouldn't have legal status any group (religious or otherwise) wanting to perform a ceremony could without jumping through any legal hoops; anyone that didn't want to take part for whatever reason could refuse - nothing new here as it already happens e.g. divorcees in the Roman Catholic church.

The one possible sticking point I can see is how union civiles would be viewed in other countries - good luck getting a same sex union recognised in Saudi Arabia! I'm sure something could be worked out though - perhaps Deputy St Pier can offer some insights?

Marital law is relatively new so this concept of deregulated marriage isn't revolutionary, neither does it devalue marriage as people were getting hitched long before there were laws about it - I'll wager they didn't consider their unions any less valuable.