On May 5, 2015, the Pitcairn Islands legalized same-sex marriage. With the passage of the Same Sex Marriage and Civil Partnership Ordinance of 2015, the Pitcairn Islands changed the definition of marriage to “marriage means the union of two people regardless of their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.” The Pitcairn Islands are a British territory located in the Pacific and is known as the smallest nation on Earth with only 48 citizens. Of those 48 Pitcairn citizens, none are gay couples wanting to marry.
After marriage equality was granted in England, Wales, and Scotland, British authorities suggested that the laws of the Pitcairn Islands be changed and the local council agreed. The only public notifications of the law were two signs, one on the town hall’s veranda and one in the island’s general store.
What makes this same-sex marriage ruling so significant is that, as citizen Meralda Warren said, “It’s not Pitcairn Islanders that were pushing for it.” There was effectively no marriage equality movement on this island. No one requested the law be put in to place, no one lobbied, and no one fought on social media or in the news.
Similarly, this law wasn’t passed because there was a long line of same-sex couples wanting to marry. There aren’t any known gay couples on the island. One of the islanders stated there was once a Pitcairn citizen who identified as gay but no other explanation as to that person’s whereabouts was given. Therefore, it seems like this law was passed for the only reason that laws should be passed: for the citizens of the country and in this case, for future gay Pitcairn Islanders that might want to marry.
With the Pitcairn Islands repopulation/immigration initiative and tourism plan, this new same-sex marriage law might attract people from all over the world looking to migrate to or visit a beautiful island country that values equality. With that, we might see same-sex couples marrying in the Pitcairn Islands sooner than we think.
The Pitcairn Island’s passage of a same-sex marriage law for an island that might not have any LGBT persons almost seems odd, at least to us Americans that have been fighting a lengthy and battle-scarred fight for marriage equality for so many years. The Pitcairn Islands changed their laws because it was the right thing to do for their citizens and future citizens, not because someone had to prove it was the right thing to do with arguments, legal citations, examples, and cases to the highest court in the land. As Rodney Croome, the national director of the same-sex advocacy group, Australian Marriage Equality, said, “It shows how much the islanders value equality and inclusion. It effectively says that gay islanders belong on Pitcairn Island as much as anyone else, and that’s a positive message.”
Furthermore, the smallest nation on Earth may be a shining beacon for the future. They’ve shown us that same-sex marriage is not something that has to be fought for. Rather, it’s an equal and inclusive right that should be protected by government regardless of whether citizens are requesting it or not. We hope that other countries will follow the lead of this nation, the Pitcairn Islands, who showed that they value equality and human justice without anyone asking them to. We hope that other countries follow suit and pass marriage equality laws in their respective countries for the good of their citizens, present and future.
Just like we hope to finally see in the United States this week.