The small Oceania island nation of Palau could soon become the first nation in the region to legalise same-sex marriage, following the President announcing his support to remove the constitutional ban.
According to local media, the nation’s President, Thomas Remengesau Jr announced his support for the constitutional amendment saying:
“Those who are different doesn’t mean that they should be outcast, second class citizens, or that they can’t contribute to the community. So I want to make it clear that I don’t believe in the constitutional amendment that promotes discrimination.”
He continued, “I want it to be on record that I support the rights of each individual, any Palauan, to be treated equally. Let us treat each other with respect and dignity.”
The Palauan Constitution currently states that “All marriages contracted within the Republic of Palau shall be between a man and a woman.”
Ironically the nation’s constitution did not originally ban same-sex marriages prior to 2008, when the constitution was amended to specify the marriage was to specifically be between and Man and a Woman, an amendment that President Remengesau describes as “a step backwards.”
Palauan journalist Kambes Kesolei spoke to ABC News and said Mr Remengesau’s comments will prove to be controversial.
“I think the statements from the President will give a boost to the efforts to repeal the constitutional provision that prohibits same-sex marriage,” he said.
“But if it’s going to placed in the ballot for people to vote on, it’s going to be a tough fight.”
Isikeli Vulavou, an LGBTQI rights advocate and executive director of the Pacific Sexual and Gender Diversity Network, said the President’s stand on equality is very welcome.
“It is significant and very encouraging and welcomed by the members of the LGBTQI people,” he said.
“It is encouraging to know that there are leaders in the Pacific who are forward-thinking.”
But Mr Vulavou said for many LGBTQI rights advocates in the region marriage equality is still not on the agenda.
“Right now the priority for them is addressing the social discrimination, the injustice, the prejudice, the stigma, the violence that they face for just being who they are,” he said.
“Same-sex marriage isn’t even it that conversation”.