The Constitutional Review Commission’s report has recommended that same-sex marriage be banned in the Virgin Islands.
The almost 300-page report was released yesterday, February 5, and made several recommendations concerning revamping, the BVI’s constitution.
Among other things, the report addresses key governance and constitutional reform issues in the territory, focusing on enhancing accountability within the government, evaluating the adequacy of constitutional governance structures, and clarifying the powers of the Governor.
It proposes mechanisms for transferring powers to the local government, suggests regulations for election expenses, and debates the inclusion of statutory boards in the constitution. The document also considers the independence of the Speaker’s role and the need for election candidates with government contracts to declare their interests.
One of the report’s critical recommendations, however, was on the issue of same-sex marriage within the territory.
Recommendation 38 under the section ‘Bill of Rights – Right to marry’ states: “The Commission therefore recommends that section 20 of the Constitution should be amended to state clearly that marriage is between a man and a woman of the opposite sex.”
The report further states: “Every man and woman of a marriageable age has the right to marry a person of the opposite sex and found a family in accordance with laws enacted by the Legislature.”
Highlighted as part of the report’s recommendation on same-sex marriage was a pending court case that challenges the prohibition of same-sex marriage as unconstitutional.
The report examined legal challenges related to the recognition of same-sex marriages in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, focusing on cases brought before the United Kingdom’s Privy Council and local courts.
It was noted that, in the Cayman Islands for instance, the government was required to provide a legal status equivalent to marriage for same-sex couples, leading to the enactment of the Civil Partnership Law 2020. This was based on the understanding that the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) does not mandate same-sex marriage rights, allowing the local legislature to decide on the matter.
Premier Dr Natalio previously proposed that the territory should move towards a referendum to address the issue of same-sex marriage, however, this has been met with some hiccups.
Notably, the report shows that in 2016, a referendum in Bermuda on the legal recognition of same-sex unions did not pass due to low turnout, with a majority voting against it.
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