13th November 2017
Guernsey aimed for equal adoption rights
The States of Guernsey resolved to make a number of changes to its almost 60-years-old adoption laws when it met in June 2015.
Significantly, the law allowed for married or single couples to adopt. However, the definition of a married couple only extended to mixed-gender pairings, which was at odds with the island’s laws. Guernsey had voted to equalise the age of consent in 2010 and recognised same-sex marriages performed abroad for the purposes of inheritance tax since 2012.
The laws in this area were evolving all the time. Same-sex marriage was treated equally with mixed-sex unions for the purposes of calculating a couple’s tax burden by 2015 and there were moves to approve equal marriage within the Bailiwick. In a 10 December 2015 vote in the States of Guernsey, 37 Deputies had been in favour, while just seven voted against (three didn’t vote).
The adoption law therefore needed updating to reflect the changes in Guernsey’s take on partnerships, since there was no way for both members of a same-sex couple to adopt with equal rights. The only option would have been for one of them to become the legal guardian and the other, effectively, to have no rights at all.
A crucial amendment
Rather than devise an entirely new law, the States of Guernsey simply amended its existing 1960 provisions and presented them to the Queen for approval. On the advice of her ministers, she did so on 11 October 2017.
The revised law was then ordered by the Bailiff to be added to Guernsey’s statute books on 13 November 2017. The key change was to amend the definition of what constituted a couple to state neither that they had to be of different genders or, crucially, married.
This latter point was important because it no longer compelled mixed gender male and female couples to marry before they should be allowed to adopt.