In the Cayman Islands, perhaps the “highest-voltage” issue of the moment is same-sex marriage. While some jurisdictions have chosen to sanction legally such unions (or in the case of the United States, had that legality imposed by the courts), here in Cayman the topic continues to be a “third rail” issue most politicians dare not touch – not only out of fear of jeopardizing their incumbency, but also, simply, because most of Cayman’s electorate is against legalizing same-sex marriage.
Periodically, some individual or group (not beholden to the will of the majority) will poke at the hornet’s nest, hoping to prod governmental action.
Enter into the arena Chantelle Day and Vickie Bodden Bush, two women whose recent request for the right to marry in Cayman (denied by government) has ignited a firestorm in some media outlets, locally and abroad.
But not in the Compass – and for good reason. It raises a journalistic judgment question that we ask, and answer, many times a day, namely: When is a “story” not a story?
To date, the only “news” regarding Ms. Day and her partner Ms. Bush is that their application to marry was rejected. This is hardly surprising since Cayman’s law defines marriage as being between a man and a woman — not two women and not two men. The women have stated publicly that they intend to sue but, so far, they have not sued.
But there is a backstory to this non-story.
A Compass reporter has been in communication with the two women, who sought him out for coverage in this newspaper.
Compass editors became wary of this solicitation when the women later told the reporter the publication of any interview would have to be delayed because they had entered into an exclusive agreement with a British newspaper (The Independent) to tell their story.
The Independent story ran last week along with an essay penned by Ms. Day, who is an attorney. Further, in Cayman, a local website interviewed Ms. Day, who is quoted liberally and sympathetically throughout the story. The story was also “tagged” with information regarding how the public could contribute to help fund the women’s lawsuit.
This was beginning to look to us (in addition to being a “love story”) like an orchestrated public relations campaign to challenge Cayman’s marriage law.
(Tina Turner once famously sang, “What’s love got to do with it,” but such an interpretation is most likely unfair to the two ladies who appear to be commingling a genuine desire to marry with an activist cause they believe in. This is clearly not solely a “marriage of convenience.” The women have been in a relationship for six years and are raising a daughter together.)
In the end, motive makes little difference. The matter of same-sex marriage in Cayman won’t be determined in online forums, on barstools or, probably, even within the local Legislative Assembly. Barring an act of U.K. Parliament or Governor Anwar Choudhury (who, so far, has confined his comments on the subject to saying there should be a “conversation”), the likely venue for any change, or ratification, of Cayman’s marriage law will occur via the courts.
We want to emphasize, however, that both women are well within their “free speech” rights recognized in both the U.K. and the Cayman Islands. They have a right to say whatever and to whomever they wish in furtherance of their wish to marry, but, let’s be equally clear: No media, including the Compass, have any obligation whatsoever to champion, support or advance their cause.
When, and if, they file a formal writ for judicial review, Compass readers can be assured we will cover their lawsuit thoroughly, objectively and fairly.