Say 'no' to discrimination against same sex couples
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The Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel's amendment to the Marriage Law, lodged following their review, has added a 'tolerance clause' to the Marriage Law with a consequential amendment to the Discrimination Law that allows individual business owners of religious conviction, who provide goods and services for weddings and associated celebrations, to discriminate against same sex couples wishing to marry in Jersey.
Enshrining this exemption into Jersey's Discrimination Law would represent an erosion of one of the fundamental principles of discrimination legislation the world over - that, within a workplace, an individual or organisation may not treat one person or group of people less favourably than another person or group of people on the basis of a protected characteristic.
Fearing tribunal cases, such as the Asher's Bakery case in Northern Ireland, would happen in Jersey members of the Scrutiny Panel sought evidence to support their publicly expressed view that same sex marriage should not be brought in until they could make sure that religious freedom and freedom of conscience would be respected.
Rather than reducing discord or stopping business owners with religious convictions from going out of business, as the Scrutiny Panel hopes, their amendment will pit one group of islanders against another the moment that the first same sex couple are denied goods or services for their wedding. And, if that couple also happen to be visitors to the island, what message does that send to the world about Jersey's credentials as a welcoming place for same sex couples to marry?
During their review of the Marriage Law, the Scrutiny Panel asked for comments from members of the public and took evidence from special interest groups, but their amendment has not gone out to public consultation. We believe that had the public been consulted on such an important and fundamental change to our island's discrimination legislation it would not have received support from the majority of islanders.
There are many people of religious conviction who support same sex marriage and who do not want to discriminate against same sex couples. Having a religious conviction does not mean you are not prejudiced, it just means you can explain your prejudice by referencing a religious text or tradition if you so choose to.
There are many people with deeply held philosophical or political beliefs that, if acted on in the workplace, would be in breach of discrimination legislation. Should they too receive an exemption from the law because their beliefs are as deeply held as a religious belief? Passing this amendment into law opens the door for further dilution of the protections, only recently provided by the States, by those who wish to discriminate against individuals from minority groups that still struggle for equal and fair treatment in the workplace.
The reasons behind a discriminatory act may be religious, philosophical or political, but the act is still discriminatory. We must not allow a discriminatory act to be sanctioned by law in Jersey.
Please sign this petition asking members of the States of Jersey not to pass 'Amendment 2 - third part', entitled 'Tolerance Clause', of the second amendment to the Marriage and Civil Status (Jersey) Law at the States sitting on 30 January 2018.
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