Concerned about the possibility of civil unions occurring in the Cayman Islands, government leaders said Friday they would move to define marriage in both the law and in the country’s constitution.
Civil unions are legal arrangements that are similar to marriage. They have been used in many countries around the world to allow homosexual couples to receive the same benefits, and accept the same responsibilities, as heterosexual couples who marry.
In 2005, the UK approved the Civil Partnership Act, which permits British nationals to register same-sex unions in any British embassy or consulate, as long as the local government agrees.
Some locations have taken steps to prevent those unions from happening.
In its recently approved revised constitution, the British Virgin Islands have stated that marriage will be defined solely by the territory’s local legislation.
In 2006 Hong Kong, a former British colony, refused to allow its British consulate to register same sex partnerships on its premises.
The Cayman Islands Ministers Association has recently written letters to island newspapers urging government to protect heterosexual marriage.
‘Marriage has been under attack so much,’ said Red Bay Church of God (holiness) Pastor Robert Thompson Jr. ‘(Defining marriage) is for the betterment of all our society.’
Cayman Islands law does not provide any definition for the word marriage.
‘It is presumed at this point and time that marriage means the union between a man and a woman,’ Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said.
“The situation is not one that we see as very urgent,” he said. “But rather than have any segment of our society wondering about it and bringing attention to it; we thought we would simply allay their fears.”
As of this spring, only five nations, The Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Spain and South Africa have passed laws legalising gay marriage. Only one US state, Massachusetts, allows gay marriages.
However, many US states as well as countries like the UK and New Zealand allow civil unions. In the UK they are called civil partnerships.
“The fact that these civil unions do occur, some people see it as a stepping stone,” Mr. Tibbetts said. “As I see it…civil unions don’t exist in the Cayman Islands at present, and I can promise you I’m not going to be one to assist them along the way.”
Mr. Tibbetts said the move to define marriage would likely occur in both the Marriage Law and in the proposed revised constitution the Cayman Islands expects to hold a referendum on next year.
He wasn’t certain what form the legislation would take or what specific words would be used to define marriage.
Defining or outlawing civil unions was an issue that Mr. Tibbetts said could become legally difficult.
“If we were to define civil unions it would mean we would condone them, and accept them and allow them, and I’m saying otherwise.”