The Cayman Islands have failed to pass a Domestic Partnership Bill – but that makes full marriage equality more likely.
As GSN reported last week, the Domestic Partnership Bill fell a long way short of same-sex marriage. It only offered basic next of kin rights to partners who register.
However, even that proved too much for some politicians fearful of upsetting conservative voters on the Caribbean islands.
In the end, the island’s Legislative Assembly member voted nine to eight against the bill. All but one opposition assembly member voted against. Moreover, two cabinet members voted with the opposition, rather than supporting Premier Alden McLaughlin’s proposals.
Why the vote pushes Caymans to marriage equality
But that may be a big tactical mistake by those who oppose LGBT+ equality.
The Cayman Islands ban on same-sex marriage breaches its constitution and court rulings. Moreover, the islands are a British Overseas Territory. As a result, the UK government may now choose to resolve the constitutional breach by ordering marriage equality.
Indeed, Premier McLaughlin has already predicted the UK will impose full marriage equality within 30 days.
Moreover, the island’s Governor Martyn Roper is a representative of the Queen and the British government and de facto head of state. He has said he will now consult the UK about what to do next:
‘The Legislative Assembly has an overriding responsibility to uphold the rule of law to ensure it is compliant with the Cayman Islands Constitution, Court of Appeal Judgment and the European Convention on Human Rights.
‘UK Ministers will consider carefully the implications of the bill’s defeat.’
The legal battle for same-sex marriage
LGBT+ campaigners have been on a long legal journey to bring in same-sex marriage in the Cayman Islands. And this vote is merely another milestone, albeit on what now looks like a path to victory.
While the islands govern themselves, as a British Overseas Territory, they are under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. This will continue even after Britain finishes leaving the European Union this year, as the court is separate to the EU.
While that court hasn’t yet ruled for marriage equality, it did rule in 2015 that member states should recognize same-sex unions.
At the time the Cayman Islands reacted by reaffirming its ban on same-sex marriage.
That move was made by Member of the Legislative Assembly Anthony Eden. And he remains as opposed as ever.
Earlier this year Eden bizarrely blamed LGBT+ people for COVID-19. And he claims same-sex marriage would make the Caymans no different to ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’.
Meanwhile, last year same-sex couple Chantelle Day and Vickie Bodden Bush won the right to wed in the islands’ Grand Court.
However, the Court of Appeal delayed the implementation of the ruling in April. It then decided in November to keep same-sex marriages on hold while instructing the government to act ‘expeditiously’ on the subject.
The failure to pass this bill is another failure to deliver that ‘expeditious’ action the court has demanded.
What happens next?
Meanwhile Day and Bodden Bush’s case is not over yet. They 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.
A Privy Council ruling in favor of marriage equality will leave the islands with no option.
The UK also has the power to order the Cayman Islands to introduce same-sex marriage or civil partnerships through an ‘order in council’.
When that idea first came up, then UK Prime Minister Theresa May rejected it.
However, the mood in London may now be very different. Britain’s Labour Shadow Foreign Office Minister Stephen Doughty has already written to the UK Overseas Territories Minister, Baroness Sugg, urging the British government to step in.
Notably, and coincidentally, Sugg’s other responsibilities for the UK government include ‘inclusive societies’ specifically including ‘LGBT’.
As a result, LGBT+ advocates on the islands are now increasingly confident of success.