Federal courts are likely to bring same-sex marriage to the territory soon, regardless of whether the U.S. Virgin Islands passes legislation to make it legal, St. Thomas attorney Tom Bolt told the Finance Committee while testifying for the V.I. Uniform Laws Commission’s budget Friday.
The V.I. Olympic Commission and V.I. Public Television also defended their budgets Friday.
The commission, which Bolt has chaired for years, is a local unit of a nationwide organization established to research, draft and promote enactment of uniform state laws where uniformity is desirable and practical. Bolt testified about the local commission’s efforts in recent years.
Sen. Myron Jackson asked about same-sex marriage as senators asked Bolt about other state approaches and the commission’s views on an array of legal issues.
Sen. Judi Buckley has proposed marriage-equality legislation, which if enacted would legalize same sex in the territory.
"I believe gay marriage in the Virgin Islands is only a matter of time," Bolt said, saying the Supreme Court’s decision striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year in U.S. v. Windsor has led to judges overturning bans in multiple states, and the trend is likely to continue.
"I believe if two people go to family court and present themselves for a marriage license and are denied, then I think they can seek redress in the federal courts and it is only a matter of time," he said. "We will see what happens, but the trend is against it. … I believe already most of the jurisdictions in the Third Circuit have already approved it so I believe it is only a matter of time before the territory adopts (same sex marriage)."
Bolt presented a budget request of $40,000 for the commission, $15,000 more than the $25,000 recommended in the executive budget.
V.I. Public Television Interim Executive Director Tanya-Marie Singh presented the station’s budget request of $3.9 million for Fiscal Year 2015.
“Education is the core to everything we do,” said Singh, testifying about the local network’s partnerships with local schools and the University of the Virgin Islands, and about its educational TV content. “Across every platform, we are providing new resources for children to learn, and giving all Virgin Islanders access to the dramas, documentaries, history, news and public affairs, and arts programming that expands their horizons and opens new vistas,” she said.
Singh said the station plans to have a radio presence by January 2015 and upgrade network servers and technological equipment. But she said they need an additional $378,000 to get on air.
"At this moment, our engineering facility requires a new on-air automation system as we can no longer purchase a support contract for our automation system. This is critical to our on-air operations," she said.
Also, both the St. Croix and St. Thomas studios need new "playout servers," which are old and no longer serviced by the manufacturer.
"The nine servers in question are the backbone of our network and we must change them as we approach 2015. Additionally we are in need of a new switcher for the St. Croix studio. This piece of equipment is critical to our on-air product on St. Croix and our productions are floundering without it," she said.
The WTJX Public Television budget includes: $1.9 million for wages and salaries; $759,000 for fringe benefits, Medicare and Social Security taxes; $80,000 for supplies; $889,000 for other services and charges; $300,000 for utilities; and $500,000 for capital outlays.
Angel Morales, president of the Virgin Islands Olympic Committee, presented that organizations’ FiscalYear 2015 budget request of $194,000 from the General Fund. The VIOC expects $40,000 from the International Olympic Committee and an array of funds from several other sources, totaling $621,000 for the year.
No votes were taken at the information gathering hearing. Present were: Sens. Donald Cole, Myron Jackson, Nereida "Nellie’ Rivera-O’Reilly and Clarence Payne. Absent were: Sens. Judi Buckley, Clifford Graham and Terrence "Positive" Nelson.