Recognition of same-sex unions in the British Overseas Territories

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A Isle of Man; B Guernsey; C Jersey; 1 United Kingdom; 2 Gibraltar; 3 Akrotiri and Dhekelia; 4 Bermuda; 5 Turks and Caicos Islands; 6 British Virgin Islands; 7 Anguilla; 8 Cayman Islands; 9 Montserrat; 10 Pitcairn Islands; 11 Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha; 12 British Indian Ocean Territory; 13 Falkland Islands; 14 South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; (15) British Antarctic Territory
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Among the fourteen British Overseas Territories, nine – Akrotiri and Dhekelia, Bermuda, the British Antarctic Territory, the British Indian Ocean Territory, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, the Pitcairn Islands, Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands – recognise and perform same-sex marriages. In the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia, only British military and civilian personnel can enter into same-sex marriages and civil partnerships.

The five Caribbean territories do not recognise same-sex unions. Three specify the right of opposite-sex couples to marry in their constitutions, though they have no laws prohibiting same-sex marriage. Same-sex civil partnerships are performed in the Cayman Islands.

United Kingdom government[edit]

The UK Government retains the right to impose same-sex marriage on territories that do not recognise the unions, as it did through an Order in Council to decriminalise homosexuality in recalcitrant territories in 2001. In February 2019, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee recommended that the UK Government impose a deadline on territories to legalise same-sex marriage and, if that deadline is not met, intervene through legislation or an Order in Council.[1][2] The May Government later rejected this recommendation in a statement to parliament.[3]

Recognition per territory[edit]

Flag Name Location Comments
Same-sex marriage
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg
Akrotiri and Dhekelia Cyprus, Mediterranean Sea Same-sex marriage has been legal in the Sovereign Base Areas for UK military personnel since 3 June 2014.[4] Civil partnership have been allowed for military and civilian personnel since 7 December 2005.[5]
Flag of Bermuda.svg
Bermuda North Atlantic Ocean On 5 May 2017, the Supreme Court of Bermuda issued a ruling legalising same-sex marriage.[6][7] In December 2017, the legislature passed the Domestic Partnerships Act 2018, replacing same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships.[8] The law received royal assent on 7 February 2018 and went into effect on 1 June 2018.[9][10] On 6 June 2018, in response to two lawsuits filed by gay rights activists, the Supreme Court revoked the parts of the law which banned same-sex marriages. The ruling was stayed pending appeal, which the government lost in the Court of Appeal on 23 November 2018. The government has appealed the decision to the Privy Council, which will hear its case 3–4 February 2021.[11]
Flag of the British Antarctic Territory.svg
British Antarctic Territory Antarctica An ordinance allowing same-sex marriage was proclaimed by the Commissioner Peter Hayes on 13 October 2016 and took effect forthwith.[12]
Flag of the Commissioner of the British Indian Ocean Territory.svg
British Indian Ocean Territory Indian Ocean Same-sex marriage has been legal in the British Indian Ocean Territory since 3 June 2014. An ordinance to legalise such marriages was approved by the Privy Council of the United Kingdom on 28 April 2014.[13]
Flag of the Falkland Islands.svg
Falkland Islands South Atlantic Ocean On 30 March 2017, the Legislative Assembly of the Falkland Islands approved the Marriage (Amendment) Bill 2017 by a vote of 7 to 1.[14] It became law on 13 April 2017.[15]
Flag of Gibraltar.svg
Gibraltar Iberian Peninsula, Continental Europe In January 2014, the Civil Partnership Bill 2014 was published for community consultation and headed for the introduction to the Gibraltar Parliament.[16] On 21 March, the bill was approved by the parliament with no noticeable opposition.[17] The bill was given Royal Assent on 25 March. The law and related rules and regulations took effect on 28 March.[18][19][20][21] The law also allows adoption of children by couples in a civil partnership, as mandated by the 2013 Court ruling.

On 26 October 2016, the Civil Marriage Amendment Bill 2016 was passed unanimously in the Gibraltar Parliament, thus legalising same-sex marriage. The bill received Royal Assent on 1 November 2016, and came into force on 15 December 2016.[22]

Flag of the Pitcairn Islands.svg
Pitcairn Islands Pacific Ocean Same-sex marriage has been legal on the Pitcairn Islands since 14 May 2015[23] after being unanimously passed by the Pitcairn Island Council on 1 April 2015.[24][25]
Flag of Saint Helena.svg
Saint Helena South Atlantic Ocean Same-sex marriage is legal on all three islands.

An ordinance to this effect was approved unanimously by the Ascension Island Council on 31 May 2016.[26] It was signed by the Governor and published in the official gazette on 20 June.[27] On 23 December 2016, the Governor issued an order to commence the law on 1 January 2017.[28][29]

On 23 February 2017, after consultation with the Governor of Saint Helena, the Tristan da Cunha Island Council agreed that a law to legalise same-sex marriage would go forward formally for adoption.[30] An ordinance extending the Ascension Island same-sex marriage law to Tristan da Cunha went into effect on 4 August 2017 after being published in the government gazette on the same day.[31]

In January 2017, a same-sex couple applied to get married in Saint Helena. The registrar was in the process of obtaining legal advice as to how to proceed (the existing 1851 marriage ordinance is unclear on same-sex marriage) when two members of the public filed caveats (objections) to the marriage notice. Subsequently, the registrar referred the issue to the chief justice for a decision. A preliminary hearing took place in the Supreme Court on 23 February 2017.[32] The newly elected legislative council began public consultations on reintroducing the withdrawn 2016 equal marriage bill in October 2017.[33] On 19 December 2017, the legislative council passed the same-sex marriage bill on a 9–2 vote. The governor signed the bill into law on 20 December 2017.[34]

Flag of Ascension Island.svg
Ascension South Atlantic Ocean
Flag of Tristan da Cunha.svg
Tristan da Cunha South Atlantic Ocean
Flag of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.svg
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Atlantic Ocean Same sex marriage has been legal in South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands since 2014.[35][36]
Other Type of Union
Flag of the Cayman Islands.svg
Cayman Islands Caribbean, North Atlantic Ocean Same-sex civil partnerships became legal upon enactment of the Civil Partnership Act by the Governor, using his reserve powers, on 4 September 2020. Civil Partnerships are considered functionally equivalent to marriage, including adoption and inheritance rights.[37]

An ongoing civil suit seeking legalisation of same-sex marriage will be heard at the UK Privy Council in 2021.

No recognition
Flag of Anguilla.svg
Anguilla Caribbean, North Atlantic Ocean Anguilla does not recognise same-sex unions, though commitment ceremonies are performed on the island.[38]
Flag of the British Virgin Islands.svg
British Virgin Islands Caribbean, North Atlantic Ocean Public officials in the British Virgin Islands have declared that same-sex marriage is illegal there, though it is not prohibited under British Virgin Islands law.[39][40] The British Virgin Islands have an extremely religious society,[41] and no discussion relating to legalisation has yet occurred in the House of Assembly. Church leaders have indicated hostility towards the possibility of legalisation,[42] and political leaders have taken an unsympathetic approach in public.[43] Her Majesty's Government has confirmed that it will not impose recognition of same-sex marriages in the British Virgin Islands by way of Order-in-Council.[44] The Constitution does, however, prohibit discrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation.[45]
Flag of Montserrat.svg
Montserrat Caribbean, North Atlantic Ocean Montserrat does not recognise same-sex unions. Article 10(1) of the Constitution reads:
Notwithstanding anything in section 16, every man and woman of marriageable age (as determined by or under any law) has the right to marry a person of the opposite sex and to found a family.[46]
Flag of the Turks and Caicos Islands.svg
Turks and Caicos Islands Caribbean, North Atlantic Ocean The Turks and Caicos Islands do not recognise same-sex unions. Article 10 of the Constitution reads:
Every unmarried man and woman of marriageable age (as determined by or under any law) has the right to marry a person of the opposite sex and found a family.[47]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Global Britain and the British Overseas Territories: Resetting the relationship". Parliament of the United Kingdom. 21 February 2019. Refer to recommendation 4.63 of the report
  2. ^ "Force British territories to legalize gay marriage, report says". Reuters. 23 February 2019.
  3. ^ "UK Gov't rejects report calling for voting changes, same-sex marriage in OTS". 12 May 2019.
  4. ^ "Overseas Marriage (Armed Forces) Order 2014" (PDF).
  5. ^ "Civil Partnership (Armed Forces) Order 2005" (PDF).
  6. ^ "Landmark same-sex ruling". The Royal Gazette. 5 May 2017. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  7. ^ "W Godwin et al v Registra General [2017] SC (Bda) 36 Civ" (PDF). Supreme Court of Bermuda. 5 May 2017. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 May 2017.
  8. ^ "Bermuda to ban same-sex marriage months after it was legalised". The Guardian. 14 December 2017.
  9. ^ "Governor Gives Assent: Domestic Partnership Act". 7 February 2018.
  10. ^ "Bermuda's ban on same-sex weddings comes into effect". Jamaica Observer. 1 June 2018.
  11. ^
  12. ^ "The Marriage Ordinance 2016" (PDF). Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  13. ^ "Overseas Marriage (Armed Forces) Order 2014" (PDF). 28 April 2014.
  14. ^ "RECORD OF THE MEETING OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY – HELD AT NORTH ARM (30 MARCH 2017)". Legislative Assembly of the Falkland Islands. pp. 38–45. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 April 2017. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  15. ^ Salerno, Rob. "Falkland Islands Same-sex Marriage Update". Archived from the original on 28 June 2017.
  16. ^ "Command Paper on a draft bill to make provision for civil partnerships" (PDF). Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  17. ^ "Gibraltar approves civil partnerships bill". Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  18. ^ "CIVIL PARTNERSHIP ACT 2014" (PDF). Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  19. ^ "CIVIL PARTNERSHIP (FEES) REGULATIONS 2014" (PDF). Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  20. ^ "CIVIL PARTNERSHIP RULES 2014" (PDF). Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  21. ^ "CIVIL PARTNERSHIP" (PDF). Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  22. ^ "Parliament passes same-sex marriage law – Gibraltar Chronicle". Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  23. ^ "Pitcairn Island, population 48, passes law to allow same-sex marriage". The Guardian. Associated Press. 22 June 2015. Archived from the original on 15 December 2015. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
  24. ^ "PITCAIRN ISLAND COUNCIL – Minutes of Meeting held in The Square – Public Hall (Wednesday, 01 April 2015)" (PDF). Retrieved 2017-01-07.
  25. ^ "PITCAIRN ISLAND COUNCIL – Minutes of Meeting held in The Square – Public Hall (Wednesday, 22 April 2015)" (PDF). Retrieved 2017-01-07.
  26. ^ "Island Council Report – 31 May 2016" (PDF). Government of Ascension Island. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 June 2016. Retrieved 23 June 2016.
  27. ^ "Marriage (Ascension) Ordinance, 2016" (PDF). Government of Ascension Island. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 June 2016. Retrieved 23 June 2016.
  28. ^ "The St. Helena Government Gazette No 111 2016" (PDF). Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  29. ^ "Marriage (Ascension) (Commencement) Order, 2016" (PDF). Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  30. ^ "Facebook Post by Governor Lisa Phillips of Saint Helena". 2017-02-24. Retrieved 2017-02-26.
  31. ^ "Tweet by Governor Lisa Phillips". Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  32. ^ "SUPREME COURT". 23 February 2017. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  33. ^ "South Atlantic Sentinel" (PDF).
  34. ^ "Same-sex marriage approved for St Helena: opponent calls for society to embrace the result". St Helena Online. 2017-12-19. Retrieved 2017-12-20.
  35. ^ "Local laws and customs - South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands (British Overseas Territory) travel advice - GOV.UK". Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  36. ^ "Getting Married – Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands". Retrieved 2020-05-04.
  37. ^ Ragoonath, Reshma (2020-09-04). "Governor approves same-sex partnerships law". Cayman Compass. Retrieved 2020-09-07.
  38. ^ [1]
  39. ^ "No gay marriage in VI, but could it be legal?". BVI Beacon. July 3, 2015.
  40. ^ Genevieve Glatsky (April 16, 2019). "Cayman government to appeal same-sex marriage ruling". BVI Beacon.
  41. ^ The constitution of the Virgin Islands defines the country as one which "believes in God" (at section 2(1)). See also: Christianity by country.
  42. ^ "Church Leaders Hopeful BVI Will Stand Ground Against Same Sex Marriages". BVI Platinum news. 2012-05-12.
  43. ^ "None Of Us Will Probably Vote For Same Sex Marriage – Health Minister". BVI Platinum News. 2013-02-19.
  44. ^ "UK Will Not Force BVI To Accept Same Sex Marriage – Governor". Platinum News. 20 January 2014.
  45. ^ The Virgin Islands Constitution Order 2007, sections 9 and 26.
  46. ^ "Constitution of Montserrat Part I: Fundamental Rights & Freedoms". Government of Montserrat. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
  47. ^ "The Turks and Caicos Islands Constitution Order 2011" (PDF). Government of United Kingdom ( Retrieved 30 January 2016.