Same-sex marriage in the United States Virgin Islands

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Legal status of same-sex unions
Marriage
Performed
Recognized
  1. Not performed in Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten
  2. Neither performed nor recognized in Niue, Tokelau or the Cook Islands
  3. Neither performed nor recognized in Northern Ireland, the dependency of Sark or six of the fourteen overseas territories
  4. Neither performed nor recognized in American Samoa or many tribal jurisdictions with the exception of federal recognition benefits
  5. When performed in Mexican states that have legalized same-sex marriage
  6. When performed in the Netherlands proper
  7. If performed before 1 June 2018
  8. Registration schemes open in all jurisdictions except Hualien County, Penghu County, Taitung County and Yunlin County

* Not yet in effect
+ Automatic deadline set by judicial body for same-sex marriage to become legal

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As a result of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015, which found that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, same-sex marriage in the United States Virgin Islands is legal. On June 30, the Governor Kenneth Mapp announced that the territorial government would comply with the ruling, and on July 9 he signed an executive order that requires the territory’s government to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples throughout the territory.[1] The first marriage licenses were granted on July 21, 2015, after the first same-sex couples to apply for such licenses did so on July 13, 2015, beginning the 8-day waiting period between applying for and receiving marriage licenses.[2]

Legislative history[edit]

The statutes of the Virgin Islands state that "Marriage is hereby declared to be a civil contract which may be entered into between a male and a female in accordance with the law."[3]

In May 2014, Senator Judi Buckley introduced draft legislation in the legislature to establish same-sex marriage. Called the Civil Marriage Equality Act, it would replace the Code's "between a male and a female" with "between two persons". It included language that would allow anyone authorized to perform a wedding ceremony to decline to do so for any reason. She anticipated that it would take several months for its language to be reviewed.[4] She expected that she and Governor John de Jongh, who she said would sign the legislation, would leave office in January 2015 before the legislation came to a vote.[5] Supporters of the legislation include Liberty Place, an LGBT advocacy organization based on St. Croix.[4]

In response, a group of church leaders organized One Voice Virgin Islands to oppose the legislation and plan a petition drive that aimed to collect 50,000 signatures.[4] The group authored a letter to V.I. officials that some of its members found objectionable because it included the suggestion that some government officials were homosexual.[4][5] The group's president, New Vision Ministries Pastor James Petty of St. Thomas, said: "We do not wish to be America's same-sex paradise".[4] Pastor Lennox Zamore said that he rejected the argument that legalizing same-sex marriage would benefit the local economy: "We don't want to balance our books by bringing the sex industry – whether it is same sex or not – to the Virgin Islands",[6]

Same-sex marriage[edit]

The decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015, that invalidated bans on same-sex marriage, was met with a mixed reception from U.S. Virgin Islands officials. On June 27, it was reported that Presiding Judge Michael Dunston of the Superior Court said the territory would comply with the ruling, though he thought that marriage licenses could not be issued to same-sex couples until statutes were amended.[7] Only June 30, Governor Kenneth Mapp announced he would issue an executive order directing government agencies and departments to comply with the ruling. He said:[8]

The Government of the Virgin Islands as a civil society can no longer discriminate on marriage. The nation has arrived, pursuant to the Supreme Court's ruling, at full marriage equality — when two consenting adults appear for a marriage license and apply for that license, civil society is required to respond. And so persons of the same-sex can be married in the U.S. Virgin Islands....

The Supreme Court has made a decision that affects the entire nation. It is not for me to express what my personal feelings are. It is for me to do the business of governance and the business of governance, given the Supreme Court’s ruling, says that if an individual in the Virgin Islands is married to a person of the same sex in any state of the nation, that the Virgin Islands government must recognize that marriage as lawful.

Mapp signed the executive order on July 9, although Lieutenant Governor Osbert E. Potter was not on hand to attest to the governor's signature, as required before the order can go into effect.[9][10] Senate President Neville James, a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage, refused to sign off on the executive order in Potter's stead.[11] However, Judge Dunston declared the Superior Court would act to comply with Obergefell in the absence of action from the territorial legislature and licenses would be issued for two same-sex couples who had applied within eight days.[12] Potter was expected to return to the territory and sign the executive order on July 15, but was unable to do so after Mapp left the territory the day before due to Potter serving as acting governor.[13][14] On July 27, both Governor Mapp and Lt. Governor Potter were in the territory together for the first time since before the order was drafted, meaning Potter would be able to sign the order as Lt. Governor.[15] On Tuesday, July 28, Potter signed the order, effectively requiring all agencies to comply with the ruling.[16]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.washingtonblade.com/2015/07/10/virgin-islands-governor-signs-marriage-executive-order/
  2. ^ Gardner, James (July 13, 2015). "Superior Court to Move Forward with Same Sex Marriage Licenses". St. Croix Source. Retrieved July 13, 2015.
  3. ^ "Virgin Islands Code 16 V.I.C. ch. 2 § 31". Virgin Islands Code. LexisNexis. Retrieved November 3, 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d e Kane, Jenny (July 10, 2014). "Buckley's same-sex marriage bill sparks fierce debate". Virgin Islands Daily News. Archived from the original on December 20, 2014. Retrieved November 2, 2014.
  5. ^ a b Ellis, Susan (July 13, 2014). "Buckley: Marriage Equality Bill Unlikely to Pass Before She Leaves Office". St. Croix Source. Retrieved November 3, 2014.
  6. ^ Garner, James (July 24, 2014). "'One Voice' Rallies Against Marriage-Equality Bill". St. John Source. Retrieved November 3, 2014.
  7. ^ Austin, Jonathan (June 27, 2015). "Judge: V.I. will follow gay marriage law". Virgin Islands Daily News. Retrieved June 28, 2015.[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ Gilbert, Ernice (June 30, 2015). "Mapp to Issue Executive Order Mandating Gov. Agencies to Comply with Supreme Court's Same-Sex Ruling". Virgin Islands Consortium. Retrieved July 1, 2015.
  9. ^ "Mapp Signs Marriage Equality Executive Order; Measure Awaits James' Action". St. Croix Source. July 9, 2015. Retrieved July 10, 2015.
  10. ^ "American Samoa is lone US territory questioning gay marriage validity; no licenses sought". U.S. News and World Report. July 10, 2015. Retrieved July 10, 2015.
  11. ^ Austin, Jonathan (July 10, 2015). "Neville James refuses to grant same-sex couples equal rights". Virgin Islands Daily News. Retrieved July 11, 2015.[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ Austin, Jonathan (July 11, 2015). "Same-sex marriages a go in USVI". Virgin Islands Daily News. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  13. ^ Gardner, James (July 13, 2015). "Superior Court to Move Forward with Same Sex Marriage Licenses". St. Croix Source. Retrieved July 13, 2015.
  14. ^ Austin, Jonathan (July 27, 2015). "Same-sex marriage order to be signed today". The Virgin Islands Daily News. Retrieved July 27, 2015.
  15. ^ Austin, Jonathan (July 27, 2015). "Same-sex marriage order to be signed today". The Virgin Islands Daily News. Retrieved July 27, 2015.
  16. ^ Austin, Jonathan (July 29, 2015). "With stroke of Potter's pen, marriage equality finally reality in the V.I." The Virgin Islands Daily News. Retrieved July 29, 2015.