Premier Dr Natalio Wheatley has argued that any changes made to the territory’s same-sex marriage laws should be made by Virgin Islanders and not any court of law.
He touched on the controversial topic because of a recent same-sex marriage ceremony on Necker Island and an upcoming court case involving a same-sex couple married outside of the territory.
“It’s become topical,” Premier Wheatley stated while contributing to the constitutional review debate in the House of Assembly yesterday. “Of course, at this event at Necker Island there were no issuances of marriage licenses here in the Virgin Islands
. But of course, they were able to have these this event, just as a celebration, ceremony, etcetera,” Dr Wheatley said.
“Also, later this month, there will be a court case. [I’m] not sure how well known it is here in the Virgin Islands
, but we have a same-sex couple who was married outside of the Virgin Islands
, and they are challenging our court system; challenging our laws, whether our laws are constitutional in not recognizing their marriage,” the Premier added.
Dr Wheatley noted that he does not want to say too much while the matter is before the court. However, he argued: “We have the opportunity to make those changes [about same sex marriage] through our constitutional review or through our own local legislature. Any change — or whether the law remains the same — is a matter, in my view, for the people of the Virgin Islands
; not for a judge and not for any other government to impose on us.”
“… [It’s] not for anyone to impose on the people of the Virgin Islands
their particular views whether from the bench or whether from another government and certainly this is an issue and a matter I believe that the people should make their views known. And we have the mechanism that people can speak directly to their views on any topic. We have a referendum law where persons can express their very clear views on any matter,” he added.
While the Premier confessed he was not certain if the Referendum Act was ever used, he agreed that if there was ever a time it should be used, it should be on the matter of same-sex marriage.
“And for me, it speaks to the importance of the process we are going through now with our constitution. Our constitution very much should be a document that reflects the worldview, the culture, the perspective, the aspiration, the desires of the Virgin Islands
people,” the Premier said.