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A loophole in law allowing same sex marriage in Vanuatu?

A renewal of wedding vows by a lesbian couple at the Ramada Resort in Vanuatu has sparked massive comments both negative and positive on social media.

Though the couple was only renewing a vow, the very thought of a woman renewing a vow with another woman in Vanuatu does bring a smile given the strong stand on the issue.

No one ignored the images of the couple and as the post went up, so did the ongoing debate about same-sex marriages in Vanuatu, but this time, it happened with a twist.

Commentators in the discussion revealed to the surprise of many commentators on Yumi Toktok Stret, that same-sex marriage might not be illegal in Vanuatu after all and so this article comes to life with a few remarks to clarify the same-sex marriage as it stands to date here in Vanuatu.

One YTS commentator respectfully explained that “performing same-sex marriage ceremonies falls under religious belief which is protected under the Constitution of Vanuatu”

He continued that “If a religion/denomination believes same-sex marriage is acceptable and practices or conducting gay/lesbian marriage ceremonies is constitutionally protected, and stopping that religion/denomination from performing them would be unconstitutional”.

The misconception of the preamble in the Vanuatu constitution is also a factor to all the confusion, one might add, however, given the preamble is “the introductory part of a statute or deed, stating its purpose, aims, and justification”, most people, well almost everyone in Vanuatu do not understand that the preamble is not judicable.

Extracts from the discussion show that “the Vanuatu Marriage act amendment of 2014 only recognizes marriage between a man and woman”.

Furthermore, to the discussion, there 3 type’s of marriage; (1) custom marriage, (2) Civil marriage and (3) church marriage and the current marriage act does not prohibit same-sex marriage nor does it allow the act, however, on the other hand, the constitution recognized people fundamental rights.

The Ramada issue was only a renewal of vows by a lesbian couple, however, it did present an interesting case, as people may say it is against Christian values and principle, the law, however, does provide a means to lawfully wed a man and another man or wed a woman to another woman through religious beliefs which are protected by the Vanuatu constitution.

The loophole here is “if a certain religion or denomination believe same-sex marriage is fine, then that religion is protected by Vanuatu law to perform same-sex marriage”.

The Ramada renewal of vows has indeed shed light on the subject as it is now up to legislators to decide if the constitution needs an amendment or if Vanuatu comes out to say, same-sex marriage is legal as there is a loophole in the law that provides a way forward or a way out on the practice.

The law, however, states “any person unauthorized to conduct a marriage will be fined not exceeding 50.000vt or imprisoned for not more than 6 months” which makes us wonder if the Ramada staff who officiated the renewal was licensed?

For the time being, the Vanuatu law is not against nor for same-sex marriages, and, as everything else is in Vanuatu, we can safely say, Vanuatu is undecided and maybe can’t decide on the same-sex since its laws on the subject do not give clear directions.

Vanuatu has, however, signed a lot of agreements for human rights and we even took to the United Nations to fight for West Papua human rights so our fight for equality for all people is indeed loud and clear, and this might be why, our laws are open and suggestive to same-sex marriage, though we may never know unless one of our leaders does step forward to answer this query.

But for the time being, the reality is now realized, that in Vanuatu, any man can marry a man, and any woman can marry a woman if their pastor feels it is a right thing to do and it is protected by the laws of the Republic of Vanuatu.

Now, what say we, who are of Melanesian values, Christian principles and not forgetting faith in God?

Well, let us just pray that we keep on loving our neighbors as Christ taught us through his teachings. Amen.