LGBT rights in the United States Virgin Islands

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LocationUSVirginIslands.png
StatusLegal since 1985
Gender identityNo
MilitaryYes
Discrimination protectionsNone
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsSame-sex marriage since 2015
Adoptionunknown

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in the unincorporated territory of the United States the U.S. Virgin Islands face legal challenges and discrimination not faced by other people. Same-sex sexual activity became legal since 1985. The Virgin Islands lacks a hate crimes statute and provides LGBT residents no protection against discrimination. Following the Supreme Court's ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015, which found the denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples unconstitutional, same-sex marriage became legal in the islands.

Laws regarding same-sex sexual activity[edit]

The first anti-gay criminal law was imposed by Denmark, who had purchased the islands, in 1917. In 1957 the law was expanded to prohibit oral sex.

In 1978, the law was challenged in court as being too vague, but the court rejected this argument.

In 1984, the legislature revised its sex crimes statues to allow consenting adults to have a private life. This revision formally took effect a year later.

Same-sex sexual activity has been legal in the U.S. Virgin Islands since 1985, as long as it occurs between consenting adults in private. Initially, the age of consent was set at 16, but this was raised to 18 in 2017.[1]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[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."[2] However, on June 30, 2015, Governor Kenneth Mapp announced that the territorial government would comply with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, recognizing marriage as a fundamental right that cannot be denied to same-sex couples.[3]

History[edit]

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]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 1985)
Equal age of consent Yes
Anti-discrimination laws in employment No
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Same-sex marriages Yes (Since 2015)
Recognition of same-sex couples Yes (Since 2015)
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples Emblem-question.svg
Joint adoption by same-sex couples Emblem-question.svg
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military Yes (Since 2011)
Right to change legal gender No
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Gay rights map: Notes on the data". BBC News. February 5, 2014. Retrieved November 3, 2014.
  2. ^ "Virgin Islands Code 16 V.I.C. ch. 2 § 31". Virgin Islands Code. LexisNexis. Retrieved November 3, 2014.
  3. ^ 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.
  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.