Page last updated at 16:34 GMT, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 17:34 UK

New rights for homosexual couples

Men exchanging rings
Civil partnerships were introduced in the UK four years ago

Same-sex couples in Jersey will be given similar legal rights to married couples after new legislation was agreed in the States.

Forty-eight members voted in favour of legally recognising civil partnerships for people in gay relationships.

Just one politician, the home affairs minister, voted against the changes.

The civil partnership law was passed "in principle", meaning it will only come into force after individual amendments to the law are agreed.

The Civil Partnership Act was introduced in the UK in 2005.

It meant same-sex couples could have the same inheritance, pension, tax, immigration and property rights as people who are married.

Jersey same-sex couples find that their commitment means absolutely nothing in the eyes of the law
Senator Philip Ozouf

During Tuesday's debate the Home Affairs Minister Senator Ian Le Marquand said he was concerned civil partnerships may weaken the institution of marriage.

He told politicians: "I'm afraid that although what is proposed may be called a civil partnership it is to all intents and purposes a marriage.

"Should homosexual relationships be treated exactly the same as marriage?

"In my view no - there are differences," he said.

'Changes slow'

Mr Le Marquand said he supported the introduction of unions that legally recognised same-sex couples but were "below the level of marriage".

Mr Le Marquand also said the legislation would not be a quick improvement of rights for gay couples.

"This is actually going to be a very slow way of going about doing this because of the size of legislation involved.

"This is an enormous drafting task and is going to take years to complete," he added.

Senator Philip Ozouf was the first member to speak in favour of passing the civil partnership law.

"Jersey same-sex couples find that their commitment means absolutely nothing in the eyes of the law.

"Many gay people feel ashamed, I do not think they should feel ashamed."

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