(Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News)
A few weeks ago, Chief Justice of the Cayman Islands—another British Overseas Territory—Anthony Smellie ordered a change to the marriage laws to allow same-sex couples to be wed. However, yesterday, April 10, the territory’s Court of Appeal upheld an application by the Government to block the ruling.
While this may appear to not have any implications for the BVI, it opens the conversation on an issue that the United Kingdom has been pushing for—the recognition of same-sex marriages in all British Overseas Territories (OTs).
However, new Premier, Hon. Andrew Fahie says that such a decision must be taken by the people of the BVI.
Back in February, United Kingdom’s (UK) Foreign Affairs Select Committee submitted a report to the UK Government with proposals for certain changes in British Overseas Territories. Among the proposals was a call by the Committee for the UK Government to “set a date by which it expects all OTs to have legalised same-sex marriage."
"The UK Government must be prepared to intervene through legislation or an Order in Council if the date is not met," the report stated.
Asked about his views on this proposal, Premier, Hon. Fahie stated, “The people of the Virgin Islands are the voice of God in the Virgin Islands. They’ll have to say what they want for the Virgin Islands.”
He said that as the Premier, he cannot make any unilateral decisions on such matters, saying, “That’s not a matter for the Premier alone. The people have to be heard, the elected representatives’ voices have to be heard, and then we’ll have a decision.”
Governor Augustus Jaspert had previously told BVI Platinum News that he would be submitting feedback to the UK Government on the people’s response to the proposals.
The proposal for the imposed legalisation was one which was met with rejection by political aspirants during the last campaign season, with most persons coming to a consensus that there must be consultation with the people.
In remarks directed to Premier Fahie during his first sitting as Premier in the House of Assembly, the Third District Representative, Hon. Julian Fraser—who has represented his constituency for over two decades, raised the issue.
“They’re also talking about same-sex marriages. In the past, our Government has avoided that like a plague. Our country has avoided that like a plague and wished for the British Government to impose imperial legislation upon us...It’s an issue that you have to face…It’s not an issue that you can avoid and walk away from,” he had warned the new Premier.
It is not the first time that such a conversation has reached the shores of the BVI. Last April, the UK issued calls for same-sex couples to be treated equally through legislation in all its Overseas Territories, including the BVI.
However, the last time that the issue was raised in the House of Assembly of the BVI, legislators had said that same-sex marriage will not be accepted in the Territory.
In December 2017, during consideration of amendments to the Marriage Act, Hon. Fahie, who was Opposition Leader at that time, and former Territorial Representative Archibald Christian, opposed suggestion of changes to the Act to allow for same-sex marriages.
Hon. Fahie is on record as saying that the question of same-sex marriage is not up for debate because same-sex marriage is already forbidden in the Territory.
“It's not for any of us to decide whether we are for or against marriage of the same sex,” he said.
Meanwhile, Christian had stated, “It's not that I have anything against persons who choose to have their relationship based on same sex. I am a human-being, so I have to support persons who want to have those relationships. But I have a problem when you call those relationships a marriage.”
He went on to say, “The substantial law already states clearly that it's not a recognised marriage in the British Virgin Islands. If it is challenged, that's a different story.”