The small island of Saint Helena has passed same-sex marriage by an overwhelming parliamentary vote.
The South Atlantic Ocean island of just 4,500 people saw its legislative body approve of marriage equality by nine votes to two. ?
With just Governor Lisa Phillips’ approval needed to sign the bill into law, weddings could happen within weeks on the volcanic island, according to St Helena Online.
The British Overseas Territory, which measures just 10 by five miles, hit the headlines earlier this year when its tortoise Jonathan, the oldest in the world at 186, was discovered to be gay.
And now the territory – which also includes the islands of Ascension and Tristan da Cunha – has taken a huge step towards LGBT equality.
The move comes at the end of a year in which Germany, Australia and Austria – and others, including Finland and the Faroes Islands – have legalised marriage equality.
The island’s Attorney General, Angelo Berbotto, told PinkNews: “St Helena has finally voted for same-sex marriage.
“Now there is equality on this little British Overseas Territory.”
Kylie Hercules, a representative who supported the Marriage Bill, said simply: “We are dealing with people’s lives and emotions.”
One of the two councillors to vote against the bill, Cyril Leo, warned it would cause a “deep divide” on the island.
He was afraid of the negative reaction from “homophobic elements,” but bowed to the majority’s decision.
Councillors should “make love our greatest quest,” he said, in a statement which seemed to contradict his previous ones.
Christine Scipio-O’Dean, who voted in favour of the bill, agreed that it was time for the island to accept all its citizens.
“We cannot discriminate,” she said. “We must not, and we must strive to ensure equality.”
Representative Lawson Henry said the island’s constitution called for equality, which its legislative council could finally deliver for LGBT people.
“It is simply about equality,” he said.
“If this house cannot uphold the constitution then why are we here today, and why do we have a constitution?
“This bill has never been about religion, it is about equality and protection of minority groups.”
Henry also warned that if the bill was rejected by Governor Phillips, the island’s reputation would be harmed.
“We are a fledgling economy that has just gone into a new form of access,” he said, speaking about the island’s new airport.
“People who would like to visit this island will be looking at things like this.
“If they feel this is an island that can’t uphold its constitution, [it] will cause more damage.”
The Marriage Bill will not compel ministers to marry same-sex couples if doing so conflicts with their religion.
by Josh Jackman
Source – PinkNews