The Cayman Islands will debate its Domestic Partnership Bill next week in the face of overwhelming court pressure to act.
The bill falls a long way short of marriage equality, only providing basic next of kin rights to partners who register. But even in this format it remains controversial on the Caribbean islands.
The government issued its proposal at the end of last month. During the 30 day public consultation period, politicians on the island have been asking constituents what they think. Some are fearful of upsetting their voter base.
Meanwhile it’s not clear if the Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin has enough votes to pass the measure in the Legislative Assembly.
McLaughlin relies on a coalition of two parties and some independent assembly members to maintain his majority.
Cayman News Service (CNS) reports that two of his cabinet ministers are vehemently opposed to giving anything to same-sex couples.
Therefore he may allow a ‘free vote’ on the issue rather than forcing coalition members to follow his line. While McLaughlin would only tell them ‘we shall see’, CNS speculates he will allow members to vote as they wish.
Moreover, the publication believes he probably has the numbers to get the bill through – with support from opposition politicians.
The legal battle for marriage on the Cayman Islands
McLaughlin says the Legislative Assembly has to act to comply with court judgements.
The Cayman Islands is a British Overseas Territory. As such, while it governs itself, it is under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights.
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’.
However, 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.
Why London may decide
McLaughlin now hopes his bill will handle the issue before higher powers enforce same-sex marriage equality.
Despite this, Day and Vickie 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.
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, a future UK government may take a different stance.
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.