The much-talked-about referendum on same-sex marriage within the territory is likely to be put forward to the public within the next weeks, Premier Dr Wheatley has confirmed.
Premier Wheatley made the statement yesterday May 2, during his first press engagement after winning re-election.
Dr Wheatley has remained adamant over the past few months that no High Court judge should be left in charge of charting the territory’s course on same-sex unions.
“We want to [introduce the referendum] actually very soon,” Premier Wheatley said in response to a question from the media about the referendum that was promised at the end of last year.
In an earlier statement, Dr Wheatley explained that this will be the first referendum in the history of the Virgin Islands
. “This referendum will give all eligible persons the opportunity to defend what they believe to be socially and morally right,” the Premier said at the time.
He also commented that the referendum is expected to 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 in intestacy.
Referendum before court case
In the meantime, Premier Wheatley alluded to a pending trial that likely prompted the referendum. “As you know, we would be having… I think there’s a case which is slated for June. So we wanted to be able to have the referendum ahead of that. So that’s one thing, of course, that is [a matter] persons are going to be hearing about very very soon.”
The court case in reference concerns the validity of the marriage between two women — Kinisha Forbes and Kirsten Lettsome – and whether any prohibition against same-sex marriage in the BVI is contrary to the constitution of the Virgin Islands
The premier noted previously that, if the couple was 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 of this, same-sex marriage would then become legal in the Virgin Islands
Same-sex marriage has remained a highly controversial issue in the territory and the issue has seen a resurgence of late with a recent Private Member’s bill being laid in the House of Lords in the United Kingdom.