BoltNagi Attorney Tom Bolt informed the U.S. Virgin Islands’ Finance Committee last month that the territory will most likely be seeing same-sex marriages soon, whether or not residents vote for it.
While presenting next year’s budget request for the V.I. Uniform Laws Commission, a branch dedicated to researching and promoting productive uniform state laws, Bolt said that he anticipates federal courts will order the territory to adopt same-sex marriages soon, even if it does not pass any legislation making these marriages legal.
USVI Senator Judi Buckley has already taken steps to ensure that the territory does vote on the issue, however. Her bill, drafted in support of same-sex marriages and submitted to the Senate in late May of this year, was in the legal counsel phase at the time of the budget hearing where Bolt spoke about the likelihood of same-sex marriage coming to the territory.
Currently, the U.S. Virgin Islands’ Code defines marriage as union between a man and a woman only, a definition that has a number of anti-homosexuality supporters throughout the territory.However, Buckley calls her bill “the marriage equality” bill, and the notion of equality has garnered an equal number of supporters who insist that the right to marriage is a basic human right — regardless of gender.
The bill, which might not make its way to the floor of the Senate by the time Buckley finishes her term in January, would replace the phrase “between a male and a female,” found in Title 16 of the USVI Code, with “between two persons.” Similar language replacements are being made around the United States, as more than a dozen states have recently enacted legislation that legalizes same-sex marriage.
Many of the changes to individual states’ measures regarding marriage laws have come about in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act on the grounds that marriage can be defined as a union between two people. Bolt referenced this monumental decision in his testimony for the V.I. Uniform Laws Commission, asserting that similar legislation would make its way to the territory — and soon. Even now, if a U.S. Virgin Islands family court denies two people a marriage license because of their genders, they have the opportunity to seek redress through the federal court system. And the national trend toward legalization suggests that even this barrier won’t remain for long.
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