A legislative motion seeking support for a referendum on the issue of same-sex marriages prior to the May 2017 general election has been accepted by the Cayman Islands Speaker of the House and could be heard on the Legislative Assembly floor as early as next month.
Unlike most private members’ motions, which are filed by one MLA and “seconded” by another, the same-sex marriage motion was signed by all five independent Legislative Assembly members.
Opposition party leader, West Bay MLA McKeeva Bush, has also publicly supported holding a referendum on the topic, although none of Mr. Bush’s Cayman Islands Democratic Party members were listed as signatories to the motion.
Premier Alden McLaughlin has said there is no reason to hold such a public vote because his Progressives-led administration would not support changing Cayman’s Marriage Law or the Constitution Order (2009), both of which define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
The independent members, Bodden Town MLAs Anthony Eden and Alva Suckoo, East End’s Arden McLean, George Town’s Winston Connolly and North Side’s Ezzard Miller, state they are concerned with a recent decision by the Immigration Appeals Tribunal which “will now require the Immigration Department to register spouses of same-sex marriages as dependents on work permits.” The independent members say this “does not reflect the view of many Caymanians.”
The immigration case referenced involves former Cayman Islands Law School professor Leonardo Raznovich, who sought to become a dependent on his male partner’s work permit after his contract at the law school ended, in order to remain in Cayman. Initially, the immigration board that heard the application denied it because the local Marriage Law does not recognize gay unions. That decision was reversed earlier this year by the Immigration Appeals Tribunal.
The members’ motion asks the government to consider holding a referendum prior to the May 2017 elections on “whether or not the people of the Cayman Islands wish to legally recognize same-sex marriages and unions in our laws.”
In June, Premier McLaughlin said his administration had “no intention” of implementing any changes to local legislation or the constitution with regard to same-sex marriages. He agreed with the independents that government has no mandate to do so, in any case.
“This government is not pushing, nor are we prepared to move toward the recognition of same-sex unions or civil unions … or any such thing,” Mr. McLaughlin said during a Legislative Assembly meeting in June. “Quite what the U.K. does to this issue is another matter entirely.”
The premier said his government’s efforts have been targeted at “avoiding as far as possible the making of an Order-in-Council which would impose such things on a country and a people who, thus far, I have no indication would like to see that as part of our culture.”
The local Constitution Order (2009) gives the governor power to legislate in situations where protecting British interests or avoiding contingent liabilities to the U.K. government arise.
The last such Order-in-Council issued involved the abolishment of the death penalty for murder in the early 1990s.
Mr. Eden, a founding member of the People’s Progressive Movement political party (now called the Progressives), announced his departure from the government backbench late last year, citing the same-sex marriage/civil unions issue as the reason. Mr. Suckoo also announced his departure from the party in late December for the same reason.
Mr. Eden and Mr. Bush both broached the referendum issue during their debates on the government budget as well.
The next Legislative Assembly meeting is due to start the first week of October.