The Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly voted along party lines Thursday night to oppose a motion that sought a referendum on whether the territory should accept same-sex marriages.

All nine government members opposed the motion, while all opposition party and independent members supported it. The final vote was 9-8 against.

The vote was taken on a private members’ motion filed by Bodden Town MLA Anthony Eden who sought a public vote on the issue following a controversial decision by the Immigration Appeals Tribunal earlier this year. The decision allowed the same-sex partner of a work permit holder to remain in Cayman as a dependent on his partner’s permit.

An earlier decision by the Work Permit Board had rejected the dependent application, but was overturned by the appeals body.

Mr. Eden and a number of other lawmakers came out vehemently against the Immigration Appeals Tribunal ruling, claiming it was not in keeping with the territory’s laws.

Several government ministers said Thursday it is the government’s view that legislators would not approve changes to the local Marriage Law, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman. On Tuesday, Cayman was given assurances by Overseas Territories Minister Baroness Joyce Anelay, who spoke in the Legislative Assembly, that Britain would not force the overseas territory to change its law or constitution regarding same-sex marriages.

During her address to the assembly Tuesday, Baroness Anelay said, “The British government has no plans to impose same-sex marriage in the Cayman Islands. However, I want to be clear that continued discrimination puts the Cayman Islands in breach of its legal obligations, so there is a legal imperative to change.”

‘Expensive and time consuming’

Premier McLaughlin and Finance Minister Marco Archer both noted that holding a separate referendum on the subject before the May 2017 general election would be expensive and time consuming. Mr. Archer noted any result in such a public vote would not prevent the U.K. from directly implementing the right to same-sex marriages or civil unions in any case.

The cost of holding such a referendum was estimated at $2 million.

Independent East End district MLA Arden McLean argued that government should seek to legally challenge the decision of the Immigration Appeals Tribunal in Grand Court via judicial review. Mr. McLean said the tribunal had acted against the current laws of the Cayman Islands in making its decision on the work permit dependent application for the same-sex couple.

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