By Nick Perry
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Pitcairn Island, a tiny speck in the Pacific that’s home to just 48 people, has passed a law allowing same-sex marriage — but has no gay couples wanting to wed.
First settled in 1790, Pitcairn is a British Overseas Territory that has some legal autonomy and is often considered the world’s smallest country by population. Islanders are descended from the mutineers of the British navy vessel Bounty and their Tahitian companions.
Pitcairn Deputy Governor Kevin Lynch said Monday the new law came into effect May 15 but initially wasn’t published online after the island’s website encountered some technical issues. He said the change was suggested by British authorities after England, Wales and Scotland legalized same-sex marriage last year. He said the law change was unanimously approved by the local council.
Seventh-generation resident Meralda Warren said there haven’t been any same-sex marriages since the law passed and she doesn’t know of any gay couples wanting to wed. As with most law changes, she said, a notice was put up on the verandah of the town hall and a second at the island’s general store.
“It’s not Pitcairn Islanders that were pushing for it,” she said. “But it’s like anything else in the world. It’s happening everywhere else, so why not?”
She said it wasn’t even a point of discussion until the outside world began catching up on the news in the last few days.
“I kind of cracked up when I saw the Google alert in my inbox,” she said. “I scanned down, and smiled again, and thought ‘We’ve kept that one quiet for a couple of months.'”
Warren said she knew of just one islander who had identified as gay, and that was a long time ago. And she said any gay couples wanting to marry might have difficulty, as the island’s only preacher was a Seventh-Day Adventist, a religion which opposes gay marriage. She said the island administrator might be able to officiate.
Rodney Croome, the national director of the same-sex advocacy group Australian Marriage Equality, said even if there are no gay couples currently living on Pitcairn, there could be some who had left the island who might be able to return and marry.
“And assuming there’s not a residency requirement, I could imagine some couples from off the island might find it a romantic destination, including Australians who can’t marry in their own country.”
Croome said the law change also sends an important message.
“It shows how much the islanders value equality and inclusion,” he said. “It effectively says that gay islanders belong on Pitcairn Island as much as anyone else, and that’s a positive message.”