Beautiful Virgin Islands

Tuesday, Jan 31, 2023

Christian Council loses appeal bid in same-sex marriage case

Christian Council loses appeal bid in same-sex marriage case

The BVI Christian Council has lost a proposed appeal before the High Court about a matter involving a same-sex couple in the BVI.

The Council sought permission to appeal against case-management orders issued by Justice Adrian Jack. Justice Jack’s orders were in relation to evidence and the date of the next hearing for the matter.

The matter concerns the validity of the marriage between Kinisha Forbes and Kirsten Lettsome – both of whom are women – and whether any prohibition against same-sex marriage in the BVI is contrary to the constitution of the Virgin Islands.

The couple entered a civil partnership in 2011 in the United Kingdom (UK), and was issued a marriage certificate once the UK’s same-sex couples law came into effect.

After being added as an interested party in the matter, the Christian Council wanted time to gather certain evidence and to determine certain fact-based issues about the matter. Among other things, the Council sought to ascertain whether the marriage was actually considered valid in the UK.

But Judge Jack noted in his latest ruling that he had ordered the Christian Council — when they were added to the case as an interested party — not to pursue factual issues that touched on impediments to the validity of the couple’s marriage.

The judge ruled that the proposed appeal had no realistic prospect of success after considering the various arguments that the Council’s attorney had put forward.

“Given the pressure on the judiciary in this territory, it is important to make the best use of its resources,” Judge Jack said in his ruling.

Background


The couple, among other things, is asking that the court declares their marriage as valid under BVI law and that it rules that prohibiting same-sex marriage in the territory is unconstitutional.

The matter, which was brought on June 9, 2021, but was stayed pending the outcome of appeals to the Privy Council – the highest court of appeal for Overseas Territories – in two cases involving Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.

The Privy Council gave its advice on March 14, 2022, and found that the prohibitions on same-sex marriage in Bermuda and Cayman were compliant with the constitutions of those territories.

Same-sex marriage has been a notoriously controversial issue in the Virgin Islands and the issue has seen a resurgence of late with a recent Private Member’s bill being laid in the House of Lords.

Lorraine LaRose appeared for the Christian Council while Karlene Thomas-Lucien appeared for the couple. The Attorney General was unrepresented at the hearing.

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