- Fresh hope for same-sex couples battling for recognition in the Caribbean.
The Cayman Islands have finally put forward a civil partnerships bill to give same-sex couples some marriage rights.
It’s the latest move in an ongoing battle over marriage equality in the country. The Chief Justice previously ruled the islands had to offer same-sex marriage in Marriage 2019. But then the Court of Appeal overruled him in November last year.
However, the Court of Appeal did rule that the government must move ‘expeditiously’ to resolve the issue.
Despite that, even the new Domestic Partnership Bill faces further delays. The Legislative Assembly won’t hear it immediately. Instead officials have put it out for a 30-day public consultation before lawmakers vote on it.
Governor Martyn Roper issued a statement saying the bill is a ‘welcome step’.
He added: ‘Our constitution recognises our Christian values, the importance of the rule of law and our respect for human dignity, equality and freedom.
‘These values apply to us all and I hope that we all continue to show a spirit of tolerance and compassion to all members of our society.
‘In the COVID crisis, we have learnt more about what really matters. The wonderful value of human interactions that we lost during the lockdown.
‘At a time when the Black Lives Matters campaign is rightly forcing all of us to look carefully at our own behaviours, I urge everyone to treat each other with renewed courtesy, dignity and respect at all times.’
However, not all politicians are in favor. Legislative Assembly Anthony Eden claimed same-sex marriage would make the the Caymans no different to ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’. This year he was also one of the first in the world to bizarrely blame LGBT+ people for coronavirus.
Why London may eventually decide
One same-sex couple Chantelle Day and Vickie Bodden Bush have been at the forefront of the battle for same-sex marriage in the Caribbean islands.
While the debate has been going on far longer, Day and Bush won the right to wed in the Grand Court early last year.
However, the Court of Appeal delayed the implementation of the ruling in April. It then heard the case in August and decided to overturn the Grand Court’s decision in November.
The new Domestic Partnership Bill is a response to that ruling that the Cayman Islands must act on the issue. As the Cayman Islands are a British Overseas Territory, the court called on the UK to act if the island’s government failed to do so.
However, the UK government, under then Prime Minister Theresa May, rejected calls for it to intervene in May last year.
The UK said: ‘Policy on marriage law is an area of devolved responsibility it should be for the territories to decide and legislate on.’
However, another branch of the UK may end up deciding the issue anyway. Day and Bodden are appealing to the UK Privy Council in London. It is the final court of appeal for a number of former British colonies and territories.
Indeed, Bermuda’s courts also agreed to same-sex marriage only for the government to appeal. That case is also going to the Privy Council.
Moreover, the Privy Council’s ruling on marriage equality may make same-sex marriage in a number of other nations too. It is also due to rule on the case of countries where homosexuality remains criminalized.
Government must obey the court
A press release from the government and Premier Alden McLaughlin vowed to press ahead with the Domestic Partnership Bill 2020 after the consultation period ends.
This, the government believes, will honor the Appeal Court’s decision. Moreover, it will ensure the Cayman Islands comply with the European Convention on Human Rights, as they have to do as a British territory.
It said: ‘The court made the point that the executive and the legislature are expected to obey the law and to respect decisions of the court.
‘It went on to state that it would be wholly unacceptable for this declaration by the court to be ignored whether or not there is an appeal to the Privy Council.’
Around 60,000 people live in Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.
Britain’s Caribbean Territories (Criminal Law) Order, 2000 decriminalized same-sex sexual activity in 2001. However, LGBT+ people enjoy few other rights or protections.