Premier and Minister of Finance, Dr the Hon Natalio D. Wheatley (R7) has announced a special referendum on the matter of same-sex marriages in the Virgin Islands (VI) to allow the local electorate to consider and decide on the question of whether same-sex marriage should be legal in the territory.
The Premier in a statement released today, Monday, December 19, 2022, said the referendum was decided at a special meeting of Cabinet held on Friday, December 16, 2022, where Cabinet members have decided to refer the matter to the local electorate.
“This will be the first referendum in the history of the Virgin Islands. It will be held at some point after our general elections, so that the question can be considered without distraction.”
He added that this referendum will also give those with strong views on the matter, including the local religious community, the opportunity to defend what they believe to be socially and morally right.
The decision to head to a local referendum comes as a case is being heard in the High Court, which potentially can impact the social and religious fabric of the VI society.
The Premier said the referendum will also
give those with strong views on the same-sex marriage matter, including
the local religious community, the opportunity to defend what they
believe to be socially and morally right.
Legal case on matter currently in Courts - Premier
“A same-sex couple, both Virgin Islanders, were married abroad, and have mounted a legal challenge to have their union legally recognized here in the Virgin Islands
. If they were to be successful, section 13(1)(c) of the Matrimonial Proceedings and Property Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, would be declared as unconstitutional and, therefore, null and void. As a result, same-sex marriage would become legal in the Virgin Islands
,” the Premier said.
In June 2022, Kinisha Forbes and Kirsten Lettsome sued the Government of the Virgin Islands
, claiming that they were denied a marriage license from the Registrar General because they were a same-sex couple.
The Premier said that in response to the legal challenge, the Virgin Islands
Government, who is the respondent in this case, through counsel assigned by the Attorney General’s Chambers, is vigorously defending the local laws, which clearly define marriage between a man and a woman.
Dr Wheatley added that the referendum will also consider the question of whether the state should introduce new legislation that would provide any person in a domestic partnership certain legal rights, such as the ability to pass on one’s estate to their partner regardless of sex.
“This approach would satisfy our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, while protecting the sanctity of marriage,” he added.