A simple change to Cayman Islands law which would officially ban homosexual marriages here has now been drafted by legislators.
The text of the Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2008 was released on Wednesday. The amendment reads: ”Marriage’ means the union between a man and a woman as husband and wife.’
The amendment has been expected since Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts first announced that lawmakers would deal with the issue in July 2007. Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush also supported such a change in a Private Members Motion filed in the LA in June of this year.
The amendment bill will require the full support of the Legislative Assembly before it’s passed into law. That could happen as early as the next scheduled meeting of the house.
‘It is presumed at this point and time that marriage means the union between a man and a woman,’ Mr. Tibbetts said in July 2007. ‘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.’
The proposed change to the Marriage Law (2007 Revision) does not address the issue of civil partnerships or civil unions, as they’re sometimes called. Those are legal arrangements which allow same sex couples to receive the same legal benefits, and maintain the same responsibilities, as heterosexual couples in areas such as taxes, medical and pension benefits and the like.
Mr. Tibbetts has previously said he did not believe the government should seek to outlaw civil unions, largely because the issue is 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,’ he said.
The phrase ‘civil partnerships’ already exists in legal regulations which have been extended to the Cayman Islands through the United Kingdom in the British Nationality (British Overseas Territories) Regulations, 2007.
However, Cabinet Ministers have previously said that those regulations only deal with the granting and revocation of overseas territory citizenship, and don’t actually extend the UK Civil Partnerships Law to Cayman. The regulations would simply allow any British Overseas Territories in which civil partnerships are legal to let same sex partners apply for British citizenship.
‘There has been a fundamental misunderstanding of this,’ Education Minister Alden McLaughlin said. ‘There is no basis for the recognition of civil partnerships in the Cayman Islands.’ (See Caymanian Compass, 17 April)
Mr. McLaughlin has previously said the Cayman Islands should look to amend their constitution to ensure that marriage is allowed to be defined by local laws, not in legislation made by the UK.
What such legal language would do to prevent same-sex unions that are similar to marriage is uncertain.
‘The concern that everyone seems to have that somehow this is going to force the recognition of civil unions in the Cayman Islands…that fear needs to be addressed,’ Mr. McLaughlin said. ‘When we talk about the need to get the United Kingdom to restrict its ability….to extend legislation to the Cayman Islands, this is a perfect example of what can happen if we do not achieve that objective.’
Constitutional reform talks with the UK are set to get underway in September following the government’s move to delay a referendum on the issue until May 2009.