By Horace Mills, BVI News Online Staff
While missing an opportunity to clearly state his position on the issue of same-sex marriage, Junior Minister of Tourism Archibald Christian has used the House of Assembly to note a major ‘same-sex’ development in Bermuda, which is also a British Overseas Territory.
This month, a Supreme Court judge made a landmark ruling that gives homosexuals the right to wed in Bermuda.
Bermudian native Winston Godwin, along with his Canadian lover Greg DeRoche, took the matter to court after Bermuda’s Registrar General blocked the couple’s application to get married in that country.
Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons, in ruling on the matter, said: “On the facts, the applicants were discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation when the Registrar refused to process their notice of intended marriage.”
The judge ordered that – among other things – a declaration should be made that same-sex couples are entitled to be married under the Marriage Act in Bermuda.
Here in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Christian noted the Bermudian case while he lamented that the BVI has been facing numerous international pressures, especially in relation to its financial services industry.
He said it is time for BVI lawmakers to ‘send a signal’ to the international community.
Christian further told the House of Assembly: “We heard a few days ago in Bermuda a judge ruled that same sex marriage is constitutional.”
“That same legislation, back in the United Kingdom a few years ago, was passed. If my memory serves me right, it was passed in the UK, but they indicated that it was left up to each Overseas Territory to determine if they wanted to go down the same road. I recall that several of us in this Honourable House indicated what our position was gonna be,” Christian further said in the House of Assembly.
BVI News Online has been unable to find any record of lawmakers in the BVI together expressing any position publicly in relation to same-sex marriage.
Premier Dr D Orlando Smith, when asked about the issue during a press briefing in July 2015, stated that the public would have a say in any decision about same-sex marriage.
“The present posture of the BVI as far as marriage is concerned is that we recognize marriage as between a man and a woman,” Premier Smith said in 2015. “If there is anything that will be changed, that will change as a result of discussions within the community and eventually a discussion in the House of Assembly.”
Meanwhile, back in Bermuda, the public did have a say in July last year when, through a referendum, it overwhelmingly rejected same-sex marriage and civil unions.
The Bermudan government, since the court’s decision this month, said it will not appeal the ruling that now makes same-sex marriage legal.
Home affairs minister Pat Gordon-Pamplin told The Royal Gazette newspaper in Bermuda: “The Government acknowledges the Supreme Court ruling handed down and, upon legal advice, we have determined that we will not lodge an appeal against the judgment.”
“While we accept that widespread support of this very sensitive and emotive issue of marriage equality is difficult to achieve, we do, however, recognise that as a community we must be able to have open and honest conversations which help to encourage awareness, understanding, tolerance and respect for one another. We will abide by the decision of the judiciary and will implement the necessary steps to ensure compliance with the judgment,” added Gordon-Pamplin.
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