GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands, Wednesday November 13, 2019 – The Court of Appeal in the Cayman Islands has sided with the government of the British Overseas Territory, overturning a lower court’s ruling that granted marriage equality. At the same time, the government has been ordered to move to quickly establish a marriage equivalent for same-sex couples.
government says it will not be able to address the issue until next year.
The ruling handed
down last week overturned Chief Justice Anthony Smellie’s decision handed down
back in March this year, in a judgment brought by Chantelle Day and Vickie
Bodden Bush who were seeking the right to marry. Smellie had ordered the government
to amend its marriage law to define marriage as the union of two people, not between
a man and a woman.
government challenged Smellie’s ruling in the Court of Appeal.
And in its
decision, the Court said: “Chantelle Day and Vickie Bodden Bush are entitled,
expeditiously, to legal protection in the Cayman Islands, which is functionally
equivalent to marriage.”
“It would be
wholly unacceptable for this declaration to be ignored. Whether or not there is
an appeal to the Privy Council in respect of same-sex marriage, there can be no
justification for further delay or prevarication,” the court continued, adding
that if the Cayman Islands government did not act, the United Kingdom should
the decision, Premier Alden McLaughlin said he was pleased that the Court of
Appeal had agreed with government that the original ruling of the chief justice
“created significant ambiguity” surrounding the Constitution and Bill of
Rights, as well as the interpretation of and ability of the court to amend
And while he
acknowledged the need to address the matter expeditiously, he said the
government could not do so “hastily”, and indicated that the Legislative
Assembly was unlikely to deal with the issue of same-sex marriage until early
we have before us a two-year budget to get through, as well as a referendum, I
do not see this honourable House turning our attention to this issue before
early next year,” McLaughlin said.
However, he added:
“I believe the responsible thing for this House to do is to face up to this
issue and take its own decision….It is clear to me that if this legislature
does not provide the legal framework that provides the protections for same-sex
couples in a form that is acceptable to all Caymanians, then undoubtedly we will
end up with the UK levying upon us protections that suit them rather than us.”
McLaughlin said that while Cayman Islands had in the past accused the UK of interfering in matters that should be decided by Caymanians, “by the same token, we cannot abdicate responsibility for taking the hard decisions when they are staring us in the face”.
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