By Demion McTair. Updated 5:47 p.m., Tuesday, August 18, 2020, Atlantic Standard Time (GMT-4).
Kingstown, St. Vincent (ONE NEWS SVG) – Changes to the Marriage Act can now allow for Justices of the Peace and Public Officers to be appointed to solemnize marriages in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
To solemnize a marriage simply means to perform a marriage ceremony.
The amendment to the Marriage Act which took place in Parliament on Friday, August 14, 2020, provides for additional persons who can solemnize marriages across the country.
The amendment, specifically under a new section nine (9) of the Marriage Act, empowers the Governor-General to appoint a public officer as a marriage officer.
A new section 12 allows for a Justice of the Peace to be an ex officio marriage officer. Prior to the amendment to the Act, only registrars, mostly magistrates, were ex officio marriage officers.
The appointment of a public officer as a marriage officer, can be, generally, for a specified area or a specified district or period. Additionally, the appointment of a marriage officer can only be revoked for misconduct or good cause.
But, section 12 (a) of the amended Act will limit the powers of public officers appointed as marriage officers and the ex officio marriage officers.
“These marriage officers would only be allowed to solemnize marriages in their offices, as is currently the case with the registrar, who is ex officio a marriage officer, unless the Governor-General permits otherwise in writing,” Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said in Parliament in the debate of the bill.
Further, these marriage officers will have to solemnize marriages in accordance with sections 26 and 29 of the act, as is currently the law, Dr. Gonsalves says.
The new categories of marriage officers cannot grant authority for the solemnization of marriages. The authority for the solemnization of marriages is governed by section 18 of the Act.
The new categories of marriage officers will be registrars of marriages under section 38 of the act, for the purpose of registering marriages, solemnized or witnessed by them under the Act.
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, and Tourism Minister – Mr. Cecil McKie, say that the changes to the Marriage Act are welcome by stakeholders in the tourism sector, as they make conducting marriages easier, especially for hotels and resorts in the Southern Grenadines.