On 26 October 2016, the Gibraltar Parliament voted in favor of landmark legislation legalising civil marriage between same sex couples in the British Overseas Territory.
In so doing the Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, stressed that Parliament was not interfering with any religion, changing any sacrament or trying ‘alter the course of nature’.
The Civil Marriage Amendment Act 2016 enables same sex couples to participate in a civil marriage ceremony in a registry office or other approved place whilst ‘protecting’ and ‘promoting’ religious freedom.
The one controversial aspect of the Bill was a proposed clause that allows Deputy Registrars to opt out of conducting a same sex marriage, provided that an Alternative Registrar is made available by the Government. Several Opposition members said public servants should not be able to decline to perform their duties, as did the Independent member, Marlene Hassan Nahon, who moved an amendment during the committee stage of the Bill. The amendment was defeated by eleven votes to four, with the Leader of the Opposition and Edwin Reyes MP voting with the Government.
The Chief Minister insisted that the Bill as drafted allowed civil servants to be true to their conscience, adding that the Government as an employer also has a responsibility to its employees.