Executive Council met today with two items on the Open Agenda.
Sitting as Planning Authority, Council considered and approved an application to amend a previously approved development consent in relation to the fuel pipeline to the Power Station in Rupert’s Valley. Council recognised the sensitivity associated with the area which is known to be a burial site, and approved an option which would cause least disturbance to the ground in the area. The pipeline would be mounted on plinths and join the existing pipeline level with the power station. Council accepted the recommendation that a watching brief, in consultation with the St Helena National Trust and Heritage Society, be conducted during excavation work.
Executive Council then approved for publication the Marriage Bill 2017 in advance of the next session of Legislative Council on 19 December. The Marriage Bill had been presented to the previous Legislative Council on 16 December 2016 although it was withdrawn during the committee stage.
Following the General Election in July 2017, Elected Members have been considering whether or not to adopt the mandate of the previous Council in respect of the Marriage Bill. The new Social & Community Development Committee (SCDC) was asked to ascertain the views of the public and to make a recommendation.
A series of seven public meetings were held in October and the public were also invited to express their views in a variety of other ways. During that period, members of the public also organised two petitions – one in favour of equal marriage, the other opposing it. Overall, there was no clear majority view, with similar numbers expressing support for enacting the Marriage Bill and for enacting legislation for civil partnerships.
Having taken into account the feedback from the public and the other relevant considerations, the SCDC has taken the decision to recommend that this Executive Council should adopt the mandate of the previous legislature for the Marriage Bill, with the minor amendment that the date of 2016 in the short title be revised to 2017.
The Marriage Bill expressly permits two people of the same gender to marry; thereby ending the uncertainty that is the subject of current court proceedings. Although that is the most conspicuous feature of the Bill, it also deals with other aspects of marriage.
The Bill will allow the Registrar-General to approve premises other than places of worship for the solemnisation of civil marriages. Therefore, marriages may be solemnised at the Castle, Plantation House and in hotels and restaurants if the prescribed processes are followed and the prescribed fees paid.
The Bill provides that clergy may decline to solemnise a marriage (for instance between two persons of the same gender) if such a marriage is not in accordance with the rules or customs of the relevant communion or denomination.
Regulations for the registration of approved premises will be presented to ExCo should the Bill be enacted.
The meeting concluded at 11.30am.
5 December 2017