Recognition of same-sex unions in the British Overseas Territories
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in the United Kingdom
Among the 14 British Overseas Territories, nine – Akrotiri and Dhekelia, Bermuda, the British Antarctic Territory, the British Indian Ocean Territory, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, the Pitcairn Islands, Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands – recognise and perform same-sex marriages. In the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia, only British military and civilian personnel can enter into same-sex marriages and civil partnerships.
The five Caribbean territories do not recognise same-sex unions. Three specify the right of opposite-sex couples to marry in their constitutions, though they have no laws prohibiting same-sex marriage.
The UK Government retains the right to impose same-sex marriage on territories that do not recognise the unions, as it did through an Order in Council to decriminalise homosexuality in recalcitrant territories in 2001. In February 2019, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee recommended that the UK Government impose a deadline on territories to legalise same-sex marriage and, if that deadline is not met, intervene through legislation or an Order in Council. The May Government later rejected this recommendation in a statement to parliament.
Recognition per territory
|Akrotiri and Dhekelia||Cyprus, Mediterranean Sea||Same-sex marriage has been legal in the Sovereign Base Areas for UK military personnel since 3 June 2014. Civil partnership have been allowed for military and civilian personnel since 7 December 2005.|
|Bermuda||North Atlantic Ocean||On 5 May 2017, the Supreme Court of Bermuda issued a ruling legalising same-sex marriage. In December 2017, the legislature passed the Domestic Partnerships Act 2018, replacing same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships. The law received royal assent on 7 February 2018 and went into effect on 1 June 2018. On 6 June 2018, in response to two lawsuits filed by gay rights activists, the Supreme Court revoked the parts of the law which banned same-sex marriages. The ruling was stayed pending appeal, which the government lost in the Court of Appeal on 23 November 2018. The government has appealed the decision to the Privy Council, which will hear its case 7-8 December 2020.|
|British Antarctic Territory||Antarctica||An ordinance allowing same-sex marriage was proclaimed by the Commissioner Peter Hayes on 13 October 2016 and took effect forthwith.|
|British Indian Ocean Territory||Indian Ocean||Same-sex marriage has been legal in the British Indian Ocean Territory since 3 June 2014. An ordinance to legalise such marriages was approved by the Privy Council of the United Kingdom on 28 April 2014.|
|Falkland Islands||South Atlantic Ocean||On 30 March 2017, the Legislative Assembly of the Falkland Islands approved the Marriage (Amendment) Bill 2017 by a vote of 7 to 1. It became law on 13 April 2017.|
|Gibraltar||Iberian Peninsula, Continental Europe||In January 2014, the Civil Partnership Bill 2014 was published for community consultation and headed for the introduction to the Gibraltar Parliament. On 21 March, the bill was approved by the parliament with no noticeable opposition. The bill was given Royal Assent on 25 March. The law and related rules and regulations took effect on 28 March. The law also allows adoption of children by couples in a civil partnership, as mandated by the 2013 Court ruling.
On 26 October 2016, the Civil Marriage Amendment Bill 2016 was passed unanimously in the Gibraltar Parliament, thus legalising same-sex marriage. The bill received Royal Assent on 1 November 2016, and came into force on 15 December 2016.
|Pitcairn Islands||Pacific Ocean||Same-sex marriage has been legal on the Pitcairn Islands since 14 May 2015 after being unanimously passed by the Pitcairn Island Council on 1 April 2015.|
|Saint Helena||South Atlantic Ocean||Same-sex marriage is legal on all three islands.
An ordinance to this effect was approved unanimously by the Ascension Island Council on 31 May 2016. It was signed by the Governor and published in the official gazette on 20 June. On 23 December 2016, the Governor issued an order to commence the law on 1 January 2017.
On 23 February 2017, after consultation with the Governor of Saint Helena, the Tristan da Cunha Island Council agreed that a law to legalise same-sex marriage would go forward formally for adoption. An ordinance extending the Ascension Island same-sex marriage law to Tristan da Cunha went into effect on 4 August 2017 after being published in the government gazette on the same day.
In January 2017, a same-sex couple applied to get married in Saint Helena. The registrar was in the process of obtaining legal advice as to how to proceed (the existing 1851 marriage ordinance is unclear on same-sex marriage) when two members of the public filed caveats (objections) to the marriage notice. Subsequently, the registrar referred the issue to the chief justice for a decision. A preliminary hearing took place in the Supreme Court on 23 February 2017. The newly elected legislative council began public consultations on reintroducing the withdrawn 2016 equal marriage bill in October 2017. On 19 December 2017, the legislative council passed the same-sex marriage bill on a 9–2 vote. The governor signed the bill into law on 20 December 2017.
|Ascension||South Atlantic Ocean|
|Tristan da Cunha||South Atlantic Ocean|
|South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands||South Atlantic Ocean||Same sex marriage has been legal in South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands since 2014.|
|Anguilla||Caribbean, North Atlantic Ocean||Anguilla does not recognise same-sex unions, though commitment ceremonies are performed on the island.|
|British Virgin Islands||Caribbean, North Atlantic Ocean||Public officials in the British Virgin Islands have declared that same-sex marriage is illegal there, though it is not prohibited under British Virgin Islands law. The British Virgin Islands have an extremely religious society, and no discussion relating to legalisation has yet occurred in the House of Assembly. Church leaders have indicated hostility towards the possibility of legalisation, and political leaders have taken an unsympathetic approach in public. Her Majesty's Government has confirmed that it will not impose recognition of same-sex marriages in the British Virgin Islands by way of Order-in-Council. The Constitution does, however, prohibit discrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation.|
|Cayman Islands||Caribbean, North Atlantic Ocean||The Cayman Islands do not recognise same-sex unions. The constitution of 2009 notes that the government "shall respect" the right of every unmarried man and women of marriageable age as defined by law, freely to marry a person of the opposite sex and to found a family. The constitution does not, however, define the term 'marriage' and nor does it explicitly prohibit same-sex marriage. In a decision of the Immigration Appeals Tribunal issued on 7 July 2016, the court recognised the legal validity of a foreign same-sex marriage for the purpose of adding the same-sex spouse of a work permit holder as a dependent of the latter. On 29 March 2019, the Chief Justice of Grand Court legalised same-sex marriage, ruling that same-sex couples have a right to marry under the Constitution. The Court of Appeal has stayed the decision pending the hearing of the government's appeal on 10 April 2019. On 7 November 2019, the court overturned the Chief Justice's previous judgment, and urged the government to "expeditiously" provide status equivalent to marriage for same-sex couples. In January 2020, lawyers for the petitioning couple announced they had begun the process of filing an appeal with the Privy Council. On 26 June 2020, the Cayman Islands government introduced the Domestic Partnership Bill, which would allow same-sex and opposite-sex couples to register a domestic partnership.|
|Montserrat||Caribbean, North Atlantic Ocean||Montserrat does not recognise same-sex unions. Article 10(1) of the Constitution reads:
|Turks and Caicos Islands||Caribbean, North Atlantic Ocean||The Turks and Caicos Islands do not recognise same-sex unions. Article 10 of the Constitution reads:
- Same-sex marriage in the United Kingdom
- Civil partnership in the United Kingdom
- LGBT rights in the United Kingdom (Overseas Territories)
- Same-sex marriage in Jersey
- Same-sex marriage in the Isle of Man
- Same-sex marriage in Guernsey
- "Global Britain and the British Overseas Territories: Resetting the relationship". Parliament of the United Kingdom. 21 February 2019.
Refer to recommendation 4.63 of the report
- "Force British territories to legalize gay marriage, report says". Reuters. 23 February 2019.
- "UK Gov't rejects report calling for voting changes, same-sex marriage in OTS". Cayman27.ky. 12 May 2019.
- "Overseas Marriage (Armed Forces) Order 2014" (PDF).
- "Civil Partnership (Armed Forces) Order 2005" (PDF).
- "Landmark same-sex ruling". The Royal Gazette. 5 May 2017. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
- "W Godwin et al v Registra General  SC (Bda) 36 Civ" (PDF). Supreme Court of Bermuda. 5 May 2017. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 May 2017.
- "Bermuda to ban same-sex marriage months after it was legalised". The Guardian. 14 December 2017.
- "Governor Gives Assent: Domestic Partnership Act". Bernews.com. 7 February 2018.
- "Bermuda's ban on same-sex weddings comes into effect". Jamaica Observer. 1 June 2018.
- "The Marriage Ordinance 2016" (PDF). Retrieved 20 January 2018.
- "Overseas Marriage (Armed Forces) Order 2014" (PDF). Legislation.gov.uk. 28 April 2014.
- "RECORD OF THE MEETING OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY – HELD AT NORTH ARM (30 MARCH 2017)". Legislative Assembly of the Falkland Islands. pp. 38–45. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 April 2017. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
- Salerno, Rob. "Falkland Islands Same-sex Marriage Update". Archived from the original on 28 June 2017.
- "Command Paper on a draft bill to make provision for civil partnerships" (PDF). Retrieved 20 January 2018.
- "Gibraltar approves civil partnerships bill". Retrieved 20 January 2018.
- "CIVIL PARTNERSHIP ACT 2014" (PDF). Retrieved 20 January 2018.
- "CIVIL PARTNERSHIP (FEES) REGULATIONS 2014" (PDF). Retrieved 20 January 2018.
- "CIVIL PARTNERSHIP RULES 2014" (PDF). Retrieved 20 January 2018.
- "CIVIL PARTNERSHIP" (PDF). Retrieved 20 January 2018.
- "Parliament passes same-sex marriage law – Gibraltar Chronicle". chronicle.gi. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
- "Pitcairn Island, population 48, passes law to allow same-sex marriage". The Guardian. Associated Press. 22 June 2015. Archived from the original on 15 December 2015. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
- "PITCAIRN ISLAND COUNCIL – Minutes of Meeting held in The Square – Public Hall (Wednesday, 01 April 2015)" (PDF). government.pn. Retrieved 2017-01-07.
- "PITCAIRN ISLAND COUNCIL – Minutes of Meeting held in The Square – Public Hall (Wednesday, 22 April 2015)" (PDF). government.pn. Retrieved 2017-01-07.
- "Island Council Report – 31 May 2016" (PDF). Government of Ascension Island. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 June 2016. Retrieved 23 June 2016.
- "Marriage (Ascension) Ordinance, 2016" (PDF). Government of Ascension Island. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 June 2016. Retrieved 23 June 2016.
- "The St. Helena Government Gazette No 111 2016" (PDF). Retrieved 20 January 2018.
- "Marriage (Ascension) (Commencement) Order, 2016" (PDF). Retrieved 20 January 2018.
- "Facebook Post by Governor Lisa Phillips of Saint Helena". Facebook.com. 2017-02-24. Retrieved 2017-02-26.
- "Tweet by Governor Lisa Phillips". Retrieved 4 August 2017.
- "SUPREME COURT". 23 February 2017. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
- "South Atlantic Sentinel" (PDF).
- "Same-sex marriage approved for St Helena: opponent calls for society to embrace the result". St Helena Online. 2017-12-19. Retrieved 2017-12-20.
- "Local laws and customs - South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands (British Overseas Territory) travel advice - GOV.UK". www.gov.uk. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
- "Getting Married – Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands". Retrieved 2020-05-04.
- "No gay marriage in VI, but could it be legal?". BVI Beacon. July 3, 2015.
- Genevieve Glatsky (April 16, 2019). "Cayman government to appeal same-sex marriage ruling". BVI Beacon.
- The constitution of the Virgin Islands defines the country as one which "believes in God" (at section 2(1)). See also: Christianity by country.
- "Church Leaders Hopeful BVI Will Stand Ground Against Same Sex Marriages". BVI Platinum news. 2012-05-12.
- "None Of Us Will Probably Vote For Same Sex Marriage – Health Minister". BVI Platinum News. 2013-02-19.
- "UK Will Not Force BVI To Accept Same Sex Marriage – Governor". Platinum News. 20 January 2014.
- The Virgin Islands Constitution Order 2007, sections 9 and 26.
- "The Cayman Islands Constitution Order 2009, Section 14, 'Marriage'" (PDF). Cayman Constitution. Retrieved May 20, 2016.
- Duncan, Charles. "Gay couple wins work permit appeal | Cayman Compass". Retrieved 2016-08-28.
- "UPDATED: Same-sex marriage legalised in Cayman". Cayman Compass. 29 March 2019.
- "Same-sex marriage ruling overturned". Cayman Compass. 7 November 2019. Retrieved 15 November 2019.
- "Same-sex marriage: Couple considers Privy Council appeal". Cayman Compass. 13 November 2019. Retrieved 15 November 2019.
- "Same-sex marriage fight to go to Privy Council". Cayman Compass. 22 January 2020.
- Young, Kayla (2020-06-26). "Same-sex union bill submitted to legislature". Cayman Compass. Retrieved 2020-06-27.
- "Domestic Partnership Bill, 2020" (PDF).
- "Constitution of Montserrat Part I: Fundamental Rights & Freedoms". Government of Montserrat. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
- "The Turks and Caicos Islands Constitution Order 2011" (PDF). Government of United Kingdom (legislation.gov.uk). Retrieved 30 January 2016.