Premier Dr Natalio Wheatley has revealed that the concerning issue of cultural imperialism lies firmly behind his call for a referendum on same-sex marriage in the territory.
Dr Wheatley gave that indication at a forum held yesterday, March 12 for Seventh and Eighth District candidates contesting the upcoming general elections.
“One thing that I’m certainly against in our community is what we call cultural imperialism,” Premier Wheatley said in response to a question on why he called for that referendum.
He continued: “This is where one culture wants to force their culture on somebody else’s culture. And we in the Virgin Islands
have a strong culture. We have a strong belief in God. We assert that we are a Christian community, and while we accept others, and while we certainly don’t advocate for violence or discrimination against others, we are certainly firm in what we believe and what we want our culture to be.”
Premier Wheatley announced late last year that a referendum will be called on the issue and said residents will be educated on the topic ahead of that referendum.
At the time, he said the referendum was being proposed because of an ongoing case involving a same-sex Virgin Islands couple who got married in the United Kingdom then mounted a challenge in the Virgin Islands
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 at the time.
Premier Wheatley said yesterday, that the couple wants to force the government to recognise their marriage and are asserting that the BVI’s marriage Act violates the constitution.
“So what has been recommended to me, as a means of strengthening our case, is to be able to allow the people of the Virgin Islands
to make their views known and clear as it pertains to their belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman,” the premier said.
He argued that the referendum now allows residents to send a clear message “to the court system, to the United Kingdom and to whoever else in terms of what we want to see our community to be”.
“We don’t want the United Kingdom, or anyone else, or the courts to get into the business of making laws for the Virgin Islands
,” he added.
No further announcements have since been made about an expected date for the announced referendum.