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15th August 2016, 20:16

Bill to allow civil marriage between same-sex couples

The Government is publishing a Bill to allow Civil Marriage between same sex couples. The Bill, if it becomes law, will not change the definition of marriage as determined by any religion. The issue has been a controversial one, and the consultation on the proposed legislation attracted almost 3,500 responses, the highest number ever. 

The Bill will amend the Civil Marriage Act, with the Government therefore keen to highlight that nothing proposed in it has any bearing on the religious concept of marriage. In fact, it says, following representations and meetings with various religious denominations, the Draft Bill presented at Command Paper stage has been amended to take account of those representations and further safeguards, even beyond those already included in the Command Paper, have been factored into the Bill. Issuing a Command Paper on the subject was a GSLP/Liberal election manifesto and the deadline for consultation was extended to allow for further public engagement as the issue was one which people on both sides of the argument felt very strongly about. An inter-ministerial committee was set up by the Chief Minister to meet with various groups and individuals who formed part of the consultation, in order to ensure the Government was able to fully understand all sides of the different arguments presented.

Fabian Picardo says the Government has not taken the process lightly and has treated the subject matter with the respect it deserves. He is pleased the Bill is being published by the Government and is not a Public Members’ Bill, although the Chief Minister says Ministers should vote with their conscience.

The Bill is expected to be debated after the six week period of publication.

Our reporter Christine Vasquez, spoke to Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo.