Without any action so far from the Legislature and the holdup of an executive order at Government House, the V.I. Superior Court is moving forward on its own with issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples living in the territory.
At least two same sex couples, one on St. Croix and one on St. Thomas, have applied for a marriage license, which court officials said Monday will be issued once the mandatory eight day waiting period is over.
The V.I. Superior Court began making the necessary changes to marriage applications soon after the Supreme Court ruling came down and, according to presiding Judge Michael Dunston, were waiting for the Legislature to make changes to the section of the V.I. Code defining marriage as only a union between a man and woman.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s historic June 26 ruling says states cannot prevent same sex couples from marrying and must recognize the unions. The ruling focuses on legal rights for same sex couples who were denied certain benefits afforded married male and female couples.
The ruling also gives lawfully married same sex couples the equal rights to put their spouses on their health insurance, designate beneficiaries, designate individuals to make decisions on their behalf in their time of illness, and file join tax returns at Bureau of Internal Revenue.
Since the V.I. Legislature has still not acted, however, the Superior Court will “move ahead” with following the language of the Supreme Court’s ruling, officials said Monday. Speaking to various media outlets over the past few weeks, Dunston has said the ruling makes clear that “persons who wish to marry need not wait for any legislative action to be able to exercise their true choices.”
Gov. Kenneth Mapp said the same thing at a June 30 press conference, where he also announced that he would be issuing an executive order compelling the courts to comply with the ruling. The order was written and signed by Mapp last week, but has been held up because acting Lt. Gov. Neville James has “refused” to sign it, according to Government House.
“Lieutenant Governor (Osbert) Potter will return to the Territory on July 15. We expect it to be signed then,” Mapp spokeswoman Kim Jones said Monday.