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British Virgin Islands in row with couple over same-sex marriage validity

by Premier Journalist

This week, a court in the British Virgin Islands will hear a legal case between a same-sex married couple and the BVI government over the validity of their marriage there.

Kinisha Forbes and Kirsten Lettsome entered a civil partnership in 2011 in the United Kingdom and were later issued a marriage certificate once the UK law on same-sex couples was enacted in 2013.

However, the couple, who reside in the BVI, were denied a marriage license there, as current law in the British territory doesn’t recognise same-sex marriage.

In their lawsuit against the government, the couple demands the court to declare their marriage valid under BVI law and to deem any prohibition of same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

The BVI Christian Council, supported by Christian Concern, will argue the couple’s submissions are in error and that ultimately the BVI constitution is not "delegated English law".  They will say it was an act of devolution by the UK parliament, empowered by the West Indies Act. 

Lawyers for the Council will say that there is no legal requirement or justification for same-sex marriage to be introduced to the islands. They believe that any change to the status quo must come from elected representatives.

In December last year, the islands' Premier, Dr. Natalio Wheatley, announced the first referendum in the territory’s history on same-sex marriage.  At the time he stated that the islands would be “vigorously defending" its laws which, he said, "clearly provide that marriage should be between a man and a woman.”  

A hearing is scheduled to start on Tuesday and is expected to last four days.  A ruling is expected to be reserved.

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