(CMR) Premier of the British Virgin Islands, Dr. Natalio Wheatley announced that the British Overseas Territory could hold its very first referendum to determine whether same-sex marriage should be legal in the territory.
According to BVI News, Dr, Wheatley said the referendum is being proposed because of an ongoing case involving a same-sex Virgin Islands couple who got married abroad then mounted a challenge in the High Court to have their union legally recognised in the BVI.
“If they were to be successful, Section 13(1c) of the Matrimonial Proceedings and Property Act, which provides that marriage is void unless the parties are respectively male and female, would be declared unconstitutional and therefore be null and void. As a result, same-sex marriage would become legal in the Virgin Islands,” Premier Wheatley stated.
“In response to this legal challenge, the Virgin Islands Government, who is the respondent in this case, through counsel with the Attorney General’s Chambers, is vigorously defending our laws which clearly provide that marriage should be between a man and woman,” the Premier added.
The Premier matters of “social and religious significance should not be decided in the courts.”
He said the people of the BVI should be allowed to express their views regarding marriage and that legislators should be obligated to comply with their wishes; as a result, “cabinet decided to refer the matter to a referendum.”
Wheatley said thus will “give all eligible persons an opportunity to defend what they believe to be socially and morally right.”
“This referendum will also consider the question of whether new legislation should be introduced to provide persons in a domestic partnership with certain legal rights such as the ability to pass on one’s estate to their partner regardless of sex,” he added.
In order for the referendum to proceed, a resolution must first be prepared, agreed upon, and then voted on by the House of Assembly.