Premier Dr the Honourable Natalio Wheatley has expressed the view that despite seeking to maintain positive relationships with the United Kingdom, the British Virgin Islands cannot allow the UK to impose its culture or ideologies on the Territory – particularly at a time where this could directly impact the process of constitutional development.
“It is very important, Madam Speaker, that in our relationship with the United Kingdom, they do not impose on us based on their cultural views or the way that they see the world… In constitutional development it should reflect the people, it should be truly a democratic process and not a process where you seek to impose your ideology or your culture on anyone else”, Wheatley said.
“As we are going through this constitutional review, it is an opportunity for us to be able to clarify or to make clear on certain issues which have certainly become topical. Especially as it pertains to what the United Kingdom may consider to be, in their view, social issues that they want to make commentary on”, he added.
At the time the Premier was speaking on the matter of same sex marriage in the Territory – a discussion which have been given new life after an article was published in Vogue Magazine detailing a same sex wedding ceremony that was held in Necker Island earlier this year.
According to Wheatley, as it currently stands, the laws of the Virgin Islands do not accommodate same sex marriage and therefore no licenses were issued by the Virgin Islands during this ceremony.
“Of course, this event on Necker Island, there is no issuances of marriage licenses here in the Virgin Islands but of course they were able to have this event just as a celebration, a ceremony etc… It has become topical because of that event but also later this month there will be a court case.. We have a same sex couple who was married outside of the Virgin Islands and is challenging our court system here, challenging our laws, whether our laws are constitutional in not recognizing their marriage”, Wheatley said.
The Premier stopped short on speaking to this matter, stating that he did not wish to say much because it is currently before the courts.
Outside of these specific instances however, Wheatley said that the Virgin Islands and other Overseas Territories have been under pressure from the UK Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee to change their position on the matter of same sex marriage. Wheatley claimed that in previous instances the Committee has made it clear that the parliament wanted Overseas Territories to bring forward legislation which would legalize same sex marriage.
Wheatley stressed that the Virgin Islands cannot give into such pressures when it comes to matters and asserted that nobody, outside of Virgin Islanders themselves, should have the final say on making drastic changes to the Territory’s laws.
He told the house of assembly, “we have the opportunity to make those changes through our constitutional review or through our own local legislature… Any change or whether the law remains the same is a matter, in my view, for the people of the Virgin Islands. Not for a judge and not for any other government to impose on us”.