Whether or not the United Kingdom would force the Cayman Islands to accept legalised same-sex marriages was the main focus of questions to visiting Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Meg Munn at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon last Thursday.
Mrs. Munn did not bring up the issue of same-sex marriages during her address to the Chamber members, but she did bring up the topic of human rights in the context of constitutional talks between the UK and the Cayman Islands.
‘Any new constitution has to give due weight to human rights,’ she said. ‘The challenge for us all now is to find the right balance.’
The questions and comments from the audience zeroed in on one issue they feared that right balance might include.
Mario Ebanks started the questioning by asking Mrs. Munn if liberal programmes such as same-sex marriages, which he said ran very contrary to the traditions of the Cayman Islands, were something the UK wanted to see here.
‘How far would Her Majesty’s Government go to imposing these programmes on the Cayman Islands?’ he asked. Mr. Ebanks also queried if the UK would extend United Nations conventions on human rights to Cayman.
Mrs. Munn explained that some of those conventions had already been accepted willingly by some of the Overseas Territories. She said she had discussed the issue with the various participants of the Overseas Territories Consultative Council in London two weeks ago, and none of the territories had a expressed any problem with having the U.N.’s human rights conventions extended to them.
In addition, Mrs. Munn praised Cayman’s current efforts to establish the necessary legislative framework to allow the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women to be extended to the Cayman Islands.
With regard to same-sex marriages, or civil partnerships as Mrs. Munn called them, she said she was very proud to have been the minister responsible when civil partnerships were enacted in the UK in 2005.
‘I was pleased how easily it was accepted by the majority of the population,’ she said.
Mrs. Munn said it was the 21st century and that the law allowed people, some of whom had been in civil partnerships for many, many years, to obtain things like next-of-kin rights and survivor rights.
‘It’s a very humane law,’ she said.
Mrs. Munn did not initially make it clear, however, what the U.K.’s stand would be with regard to imposing civil partnership legislation in Cayman.
Pastor William Peguero rose to make his views known to Mrs. Munn.
‘Our current government will oppose same-sex marriages,’ he said, adding that he was not originally from the Cayman Islands, but he respected the culture of the people. ‘I will strongly oppose same-sex marriages.’
People for Referendum’s Denny Warren also stood to express his views on civil partnerships.
‘I will not accept this as part of our culture,’ he said.
In an interview with Radio Cayman after the Chamber luncheon, Mrs. Munn made it clear the U.K. wasn’t going to force the Cayman Islands to accept civil partnerships.
‘No, we’ve not been looking to introduce it to the Overseas Territories,’ she said.
Speaking at a press briefing on Friday, Mrs. Munn once again said she thought the U.K. civil partnership legislation was humane.
‘I’m not going to apologise for that,’ she said. ‘Quite honestly, I’m proud of what we’ve done in the U.K.’
But Mrs. Munn stressed that civil partnerships would not have to be part of a Bill of Rights in Cayman new constitution.
‘There is no agenda to say to any overseas territories ‘you have to do this’,’ she said.