“[A]s far as our local elections are concerned, gay marriage is likely to become a much discussed campaign issue, but the tenor of the debate almost certainly will focus on who is MORE/MOST against gay marriage. Voters, we would hope, will not be distracted or spend too much time on the nuances dividing similar positions.”
— “Politics and religion: Foreshadowing our upcoming elections,” Cayman Compass Editorial Board, Sept. 14, 2016
At the risk of quoting ourselves, what we wrote just two days ago is already proving to be true. Then again, it doesn’t take Nostradamus to predict that politicians in a socially conservative environment would seek to build support based on socially conservative issues.
Acting more like a cohesive political party than a group of unaffiliated individuals, the five independent members of the Legislative Assembly have joined together to sign a motion seeking to hold a referendum on the subject of same-sex marriage.
The motion — submitted by Bodden Town MLAs Anthony Eden and Alva Suckoo, East End’s Arden McLean, George Town’s Winston Connolly and North Side’s Ezzard Miller — poses the following question: “whether or not the people of the Cayman Islands wish to legally recognize same-sex marriages and unions in our laws.”
Why have a referendum? There is no doubt that the answer from the voting public will be “No.”
In fact, as many people (including every single MLA) are already well aware, marriage in the Cayman Islands is clearly defined in our Constitution as being between two people “of the opposite sex.” That’s what it says.
The existing law (no same-sex marriage) continues to be supported by the people, the independents, the Opposition and the ruling Progressives. Premier Alden McLaughlin said in June, “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.”
To his credit, Premier McLaughlin has spoken lucidly, evenly and accurately on this topic. As he has said, any potential reform of Cayman’s marriage laws would have to arrive in the form of court judgments or U.K. mandates, not local legislation.
Given the strength of the status quo, we can’t help but wonder if the independents have contemplated the possible unintended consequences of their proposed referendum, which can have only two results: 1) continuance of the current law, which they support; or 2) overturning of the current law, and the establishment of same-sex marriage in Cayman, which they say they don’t support.
With the current legal and popular stance on same-sex marriage so apparent, why would members seek to introduce any uncertainty into the status quo? (As an aside, in June, Bermuda held a referendum on same-sex marriage and civil unions. Predictably, the outcome was “against,” and the vote did nothing except cost money, and stoke anger and division among the populace.)
In summary, there is no need for a referendum on same-sex marriage in Cayman. The timing of the proposal too conveniently and coincidentally ties into the nascent general election campaign cycle.
Not that we are painting all referendum supporters with one brush. In our mind, there are two groups of people who would favor a referendum: 1) Those, including no doubt some lawmakers, who truly believe same-sex marriage is an important issue, for religious, moral or personal reasons; and 2) Opportunistic politicians seeking attention and power.
For this second group, the issue of same-sex marriage is not so much an issue as it is a diversion — before the general election campaign has really begun — from the discussion of far more substantive subjects.