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'They'll still be free to hate the idea. The difference is that I will now be free to marry the man I love'

Gary and Alan got engaged in Venice Photo: Gary Burgess

As a journalist it is drilled into you to be fair, balanced and impartial in your reporting, but there are some issues on which that mantra just doesn't work.

Should I be fair, balanced and impartial when it comes to looking at racism? Balance does not mean I need to find someone to speak up in favour of racism when I am interviewing somebody who opposes racism. The argument has long since sailed and it's fair to say most (though ideally all, one day) believe racism is wrong.

And so it is with equal marriage, also known as same sex marriage.

In the past week,in the newspaper column I write for the Jersey Evening Post and through my own social media channels, I have been vocally in favour of same-sex marriage.

I have a vested interest, of course, and it is one I openly declare. I am a gay man living in Jersey who is getting married this year.

So, when politicians last night (Thursday) voted 42 to 1 in favour of reforming the marriage law to allow all couples to marry, I admit I shed a tear of joy.

It's been a long, and at times difficult, journey for those who've been campaigning for equality in law. Same sex marriage was introduced in the UK in 2014 and in Guernsey in 2016.

And, though,Jersey's politicians approved the concept back in 2015, it has taken all this time for it to get the final sign off in parliament.

The most recent 'hurdle' was because of something which, with no sense of irony, became known as the tolerance clause. If approved, this law would have allowed any sole trader to refuse to sell a product or service to a same sex couple getting married on the grounds that it was against their religious belief.

To be clear, this is quite different to the carve out that was already part of the law which gave the church the right to refuse same sex weddings.

The tolerance clause was seen by some from religious groups as a necessary move to protect their beliefs. In practise, it would have seen a 21st century equivalent of the "no blacks" signs that once appeared in the windows of businesses in many countries around the world. Nowadays, the idea seems almost comical in its ridiculousness.

The same sex marriage law - without the tolerance clause - is now passed. In reality, no business owner who doesn't want to serve same sex couples will face any kind of legal sanction. Common sense will prevail. Speaking personally, if I was to discover somebody opposed two men getting wed, I'd simply take my money elsewhere and make sure I let my network of friends known not to send business their way.

That said, having booked a wedding venue, cake, outfits, flowers, transport, hotels, honeymoon and the many other things needed for our big day, not a single person has so much as raised an eyebrow at the idea of a same sex wedding. They're grateful for the business. I'm grateful for their products and services. It really is as simple as that.

In many of the closing speeches in parliament last night, politicians spoke of the need for healing and building bridges after some testy language was used by both sides in the days ahead of the debate.

Indeed, one politician cited my newspaper article as an unhelpful contribution to the debate. I stand by every word of it as it was written to challenge thinking and take people out of their comfort zone. If anybody was offended by what I wrote, that is their choice, and I celebrate their freedom to choose to be offended.

But I am aware of personal attacks of politicians and religious folk on social media. That's where I do have sympathy with what was said in the States last night. However, it should not be forgotten that among those contributing to the debate was a group called the Jersey Evangelical Alliance whose own submission to the panel reviewing the legislation actually wanted employers to be able to sack homosexuals.

I am a big believer in common sense. Yesterday, common sense prevailed.

How will same sex marriages affect those who oppose the idea? Answer: they won't. They'll still be free to hate the idea. The difference is that I will now be free to marry the man I love.

This article is a personal blog and does not necessarily reflect the views of ITV News.

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