UK will not step in on same-sex marriage

Ahmad: Judicial process will determine path

Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon
Lord Tariq Mahmood Ahmad

The United Kingdom has no current plans force its overseas territories to legalize same-sex marriage through an order in council.

Lord Tariq Ahmad, the minister responsible for the British Overseas Territories, said the U.K. was content, for now, to let the judicial process takes its course.

Speaking before a Foreign Affairs Select Committee in Westminster, London, last week, Mr. Ahmad was asked how long he was prepared to wait for Caribbean territories to grant equal marriage rights to its citizens.

He said government was currently awaiting the final outcome of a legal challenge being fought by the Bermuda government over the issue and had no immediate plans to step in.

“At the moment, there are no plans to intervene or interject to produce an order in council to that effect,” he added.

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The Bermuda government has appealed to the U.K. Privy Council in a last-ditch effort to overturn decisions by its own courts that made gay marriage legal.

At the Dec. 18 committee meeting, Mr. Ahmad said the U.K. was hopeful that the Bermuda decision, when it comes, will influence legal change, not just in Bermuda, but in the other territories as well.

“I am hoping the outcome will be the judicial process in Bermuda will uphold the decision and that will act as catalyst for the territories to look long and hard at what decisions were taken and how the law was upheld and how they should act in accordance with that,” he said.

He said the Bermuda courts had shown that they were prepared to protect rights for all citizens and said the U.K. government felt it was right to let the judicial process reach its final conclusion in the Privy Council.

He agreed with the suggestion that Bermuda was expending a lot of energy to stop people of the same-sex from marrying.

The Cayman Islands will get its own test case on same-sex marriage in February. Chantelle Day, a Caymanian lawyer, and her partner Vickie Bodden Bush have been granted leave to apply for a judicial review of the Cayman Islands government’s decision to refuse their application to marry.

In a writ, filed in June against the governor, the deputy registrar of the General Registry, and the attorney general, lawyers for the couple argue that Cayman’s constitution protects them from discrimination.

Mr. Ahmad did not address the Cayman Islands specifically in his comments last week. He said several territories had expressed that they want to move forward on the issue “reflecting he opinions of their own citizens.”

“We do expect progress on this issue, subject to a judicial process,” he added.

Cayman Islands-based lawyer and equal marriage rights advocate Leonardo Raznovich also submitted written evidence to the committee.

He outlined how the current approach to marriage rights in the Cayman Islands and other territories deviated from standards guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights and urged the U.K. government to act.

He recommended the U.K. enact legislation to rectify those human rights breaches for territories that failed to do so themselves within 12 months.

He also suggested the Foreign and Commonwealth Office instruct governors in its territories that their role in securing “good governance” includes ensuring that LGBTI people are protected from discrimination.

“The inquiry provides Parliament the opportunity to step in and to secure equality and the rule of law for all British citizens in all corners of the United Kingdom,” he wrote.

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