World news story
Same Sex Consular Marriage
On Saturday 13 June, the High Commissioner Lindsay Skoll, conducted the same sex marriage of two British nationals, at her Residence.
Under the UK’s Consular Marriages and Marriages Under Foreign Law Order 2014 and the Marriages of Same Sex Couples Regulations 2014, the two men were legally entitled to be married by an appropriate British official on British territory. While the High Commissioner understands that under the Civil Status Act of Seychelles, same sex marriages or civil partnerships are not recognised in Seychelles, she has sought and been granted formal permission by the Government of Seychelles to conduct the marriage and has remained in constant dialogue with Seychelles authorities on this matter.
The timing of the event: The British Government passed the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act in 2013 and in 2014 began to offer same-sex marriage as a consular service. At this point British Missions around the world entered into discussions with host governments, including in Seychelles. The British High Commission explained it is obliged to offer British nationals resident in Seychelles and wishing to enter into a same-sex marriage the required legal service on premises occupied by the British High Commission. This was agreed to by the Government of Seychelles on 22 September 2014. Several months later the High Commission was approached by the two British nationals who were married on Saturday, with a request that the High Commission provide them with this service, at which point the date was fixed. The Seychelles government was informed of this specific request and permission was again confirmed.
Motivation for the event: As with the timing of the event, any “motivation” is entirely because the British High Commission has been asked to perform a service now offered due to the relevant legal changes in the UK in 2014, and on a date requested by the couple concerned. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the length of the British High Commissioner’s tour. The same-sex wedding will take place between two British nationals, on British territory (as all diplomatic missions are considered territory of the mission state in all countries) and will be performed by a British official as required by British law. It is in no way intended as an attempt to interfere in the domestic affairs of Seychelles.
The service is being conducted entirely at the behest of the couple and not to “achieve” any objective of the British High Commission. In August 2014 the Seychelles Judicial College hosted a debate on decriminalisation of homosexuality. This generated a serious public discussion on the issue, which continues today. The British High Commission is aware that the same sex marriage will contribute to this discussion and supports an open debate on all issues connected to Human Rights.
Religious sensitivities: The service is an entirely legal and civil matter and has absolutely no religious input.
Respect for Seychelles: The British High Commission has the utmost respect for the laws, values, beliefs and culture of Seychelles. Under British law the High Commission is legally required to provide the opportunity for Britons to apply for a same-sex marriage to be performed. It has explained this requirement to the Government of Seychelles and sought and been granted permission to provide this service. The BHC is categorical that the issue of same-sex marriage for Seychellois is a matter purely for the Government and people of the Seychelles to decide for themselves. The British High Commission is hopeful that the work it has undertaken in areas as diverse as counter-piracy measures, the prevention of gender based violence, disability rights and prison rehabilitation demonstrates its commitment to supporting the Government and people of Seychelles across many issues.
Precedence: The British Ambassador to China, Sir Sebastian Wood, performed a same-sex marriage at the British Embassy in Beijing in September 2014. The British Government regards LGBT rights as an integral part of the set of Universal Human Rights. The British Government works multilaterally with its partners in the European Union and the Commonwealth to promote full human rights for all.
Reaction: Reaction in Seychelles has been similar to reaction in other countries around the world where such events have taken place. A wide range of views have been expressed, some offering whole hearted support, some adamantly opposed and many others questioning why it is an issue at all. As we have seen in the UK and most recently in Ireland, the issue of LGBT (or as we prefer to say, equal) rights attracts many different opinions. It is for each country to take into consideration the voices of its people when considering this issue.