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Tourists don't usually associate the Caribbean with same-sex marriage, but you might be surprised to learn that there are five islands in the region where same-sex marriage is legal and a handful of other islands where symbolic same-sex marriages are a common practice.
In late June, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled for marriage equality and that same-gender couples have the constitutional right to marry in all 50 states and all U.S. territories. Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are covered by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Civil marriage equality at the territory level is now legal.
These two destinations join Saba, Bonaire and St. Eustatius as the other Caribbean destinations where same-sex marriage is legal. Ironically, Bonaire and St. Eustatius are not as LGBT welcoming as other islands that do not allow same-sex marriage such as St. Maarten/St. Martin and Curacao.
In fact, most consider Curacao the LGBT capital of the Caribbean, yet legalized same-sex marriage doesn't exist there.
The Netherlands Antilles, an autonomous Caribbean country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, was dissolved on October 10, 2010. After dissolution, the "BES islands" of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba became special municipalities of the Netherlands proper, while Curacao and St. Maarten became constituent countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, along the lines of Aruba, which separated from the Netherlands roughly 30 years ago.
Because the BES islands became special municipalities, citizens of those islands are entitled to the same rights as those living in the Netherlands.
"The Caribbean has over 30 islands with their own distinct background," says Andre Rojer, marketing manager for the Curacao Tourist Board. "Then you have the Dutch islands and they won't bat a brow on the issue. Amsterdam is the first country in the world to legalize gay marriages and they are the first country to bring this open mentality to the U.S.”
Although you cannot legally get married on Curacao, the island does offer symbolic wedding ceremonies and vow renewals for same-sex couples. The island even has its own wedding planner that has been assisting symbolic wedding and vow renewal ceremonies for same-sex couples in the last few months, Rojer says.
And other destinations are coming around as well. St. Maarten also offers symbolic ceremonies as well as the French side of St. Martin, which just started to offer symbolic wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples this year, Kate Richardson, director of tourism for St. Martin, told Travel Agent during the recent State of the Industry Conference in Curacao. Symbolic same-sex wedding ceremonies are also common on Aruba.
Also, keep an eye on Antigua and Barbados as both islands are making some great progress in adapting to the LGBT culture. Both islands are slowly popping up on LGBT clients’ radars as they are both beginning to offer wedding ceremonies but they still cannot get legally married.