While stressing that he has nothing against same sex couples British Virgin Islands Junior Minister of Tourism, Hon. Archibald Christian called upon other members of the House of Assembly to support him in ensuring that the Marriage Amendment Act reflects that same sex marriages are not allowed in the Territory.
The Legislator who admitted that his position might be deemed unfavorable to some, told the House of Assembly on 7 December during the debate of the Marriage Act that he believes a line ought to be drawn.
“Madame Speaker I was wondering if another section or another category could be added and I know that this is going to spark a lot of debate in our society but that’s why I am here to spark debate… The section that we will discuss in Committee perhaps is same sex. What about that category of persons? Are we waiting for someone to tell us when it is convenient for us to do it, or are we going to be bold and courageous enough to say we will never do it?”
“That’s the section or category that I would like to see added to this list. Madame Speaker it’s not as if 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; and so under this Marriage Act I am hoping that a category,” Hon. Christian stated.
As the other Legislators mumbled and grumbled about Hon. Christian’s comment, the Junior Minister dared the others to join him in his stance: “I told you it was going to generate some debate. There is a lot of grumbling inside here Madame Speaker as if the room all of a sudden just got excited by something. Well I am glad that they are excited, let’s see who has the courage to get up here and say that they support me in my quest to have this category added.”
In noting that the subject is a controversial one, Hon. Christian told the House: “Madame Speaker I know that the debate will go on for a long time because it is one of those very delicate topics that some of us are afraid to touch. But I don’t want the hands from somewhere else to dictate to us what we need to do, because the rest of the world is swinging in a particular direction. I think for a long time when you look back on the history of the Virgin Islands you can see that we have been able to dance to the beat of our own drum. We must continue that way.”
The Junior Minister also said that while the Territory may accept outside advice there are certain decisions that must be made as a people that we feel comfortable doing and living with.
Meanwhile Leader of the Opposition Hon. Andrew Fahie explained that Legislators are not required to take a stance on same sex marriage because the BVI laws on the books are clear on the matter. “It’s not for any of us to decide whether we are for or against marriage of the same sex because our laws already made it clear, this is just an amendment to the law. The substantial law already states clearly that it’s not a recognised marriage in the British Virgin Islands. Now, if it is challenged, that’s a different case of whether it will be won or not in the courts… But right now there is no debate on that because it is already a law Madame Speaker. So I don’t think that nobody has to get up and declare their hand on this because the law is clear.”
Moreover, Hon. Fahie mentioned that all laws can be challenged and he noted that it would be left to be seen if the matter goes before a court of law, but that he said is up to whoever chooses to go in that direction.
During the wrap-up of the debate Premier and Minister for Finance Dr. the Hon. Orlando Smith also noted that the Marriage Amendment Act does not change the BVI’s position that is made clear in law.
Additionally the Act prevents persons who are related by any means to be married here in the Territory. It also prevents marriage to a child.
Wikipedia points out that “LGBT rights in the British Virgin Islands are seen to be restricted in comparison to most Western countries. As recently as December 2017 elected politicians have stated in the House of Assembly that “we don’t support gay marriage here.”” Furthermore Wikipedia pointed out that “As a British overseas Territory, the British Virgin Islands Government is required to comply with their obligations under the international Human Rights instruments which have been extended to them. Specifically this includes an adherence to the European Convention on Human Rights which highlight a responsibility to ensure non-discrimination. The European Convention on Human Rights has been recognised by the courts as having legal effect in the jurisdiction.”