Cayman Islands legislators unanimously backed a private members’ motion last week supporting government to appeal the decision by the chief justice that legalised same-sex marriage to the “full extent of the appeals process”.
The debate lasted two days, as the normal business of the Legislative Assembly was suspended for members to discuss the issue on Wednesday and Thursday.
The motion also called for the legislature to record its disappointment in the chief justice’s decision and his “seeming failure to recognise the doctrine of separation of powers” and to assert the competence of the Legislative Assembly as the only institution with the power to enact legislation.
Here are some edited extracts of what the legislators had to say on the issue.
“When we negotiated the Constitution, I recall the difficulties we had with that Bill of Rights because England wanted one thing and we wanted the other.
“We fought many battles to ensure Christian culture was represented. We prevailed and presented that to this country. Included in that was the written expression that marriage was between a man and a woman.
“When the chief justice takes it upon himself to change our laws it is necessary to challenge him.
“The most recent ruling by [the] European Court on this matter says that member states should not be forced to allow same-sex marriage if they have same-sex partnerships or unions in place. Yet we make that giant leap.
“[They say] the courts are duty bound to take over the responsibility the people of the country [have] given us. I submit they are wrong – the supremacy of this parliament has been diminished as a result of that ruling on Friday last.”
“I have always said that wherever there is injustice – there is injustice everywhere – you are going to find Arden McLean with a clenched fist.”
“Man’s laws cannot make moral what God has declared immoral. God is the judge, jury and he will be the executioner because he says in this book [the Bible] that this type of lifestyle will keep you out of heaven.
“Anyone who portrays this thing as something we need to be tolerating, I feel sorry for them, because he himself says he will deal with them.
“The Father in heaven I serve is a man of justice; he will not allow us to go down. What is the difference between the Cayman Islands and Sodom and Gomorrah?
“You think he’s going to make an exception? He’s not going to do it. It may not happen right now but they tell me, in Sodom and Gomorrah you can go there and find this place bare, with just ashes and stuff.”
“My colleagues know about my Betsy. (Mr. Eden has previously referred to his shotgun with the pet name Betsy.) Don’t come around my family with this nonsense.”
“The government needs to begin to consider what we are going to do in case the appellate courts all the way up to the Privy Council uphold the ruling of the chief justice. My fear is that, given the current environment and political climate, that is a very likely possibility.
“I would propose that we take a long look at Section 5 of the Constitution since it has been given an extraordinary interpretation and appears to be the section of the Constitution that the chief justice, and therefore the courts, have used to bring unto themselves the powers that the Constitution intends should remain in these hallowed halls.
“If we do not find a way to correct and change our Constitution to prevent this ever happening in the future, it is the greatest danger to our democracy that has come in a long time.”
“This is not about, for me, who is gay and who is not. It is not. People will do whatever they want in their own bedrooms.
“Let our children grow in our schools free from being forced to read textbooks about Fred and Ned and Ann and Fran …. We should continue to let them know about Jack and Jill.
“These are all Caymanians [the gay community] and we don’t want hate – I never heard of any hate crimes against gays or otherwise before this ruling came about.
“What is the rush? Why can’t people respect our views and our culture? Is the mandate to change the whole world into Sodom and Gomorrah? Not our Cayman Islands.
“This lacks the mandate of our people. We had a choice to do this in Cabinet and we refused to do so; so it went to the court. I represent the common man and woman and we must protect them from this bullying of imported views.”
“We are not here to destroy anyone or stop them loving who they want to love.
“We have to protect our Constitution, our country, our democracy. What I see has been done here is totally undemocratic.
“When I see a judgment that cuts through the power of this Legislative Assembly and one man [the chief justice] gives himself the authority to make a major change, that really concerns me because we could draw parallels to a dictatorship and that is what we have to be careful of.
“This is no longer a gay marriage issue, it is a constitutional issue, and if we do not stand firm, we are going to pay a heavy price down the road. We might as well shut down this parliament and go home.”
“Each one of us has an obligation to bring our constituents‘ feelings to the forefront. The feeling in the Sister Islands is of major concern.
“The way forward has been brought by the premier and supported by a private members’ motion.
“I don’t think there could be a clearer display of unity from the members of this House today.
“Where we are today, we shouldn’t be here. We are doing everything we can as each government member and as leaders to deal with the problem.”
“The Constitution was voted on by the people and the people won.
“I have had a lot of phone calls and only one has said that you all will be on the wrong side of history and I said to them, ‘If that is the case, I have no problem with that.’
“A lot of people feel, because of how the chief justice said it, that this is set in stone. I’m so happy they instructed the [attorney general] to appeal. Hats must be taken off to the government for this issue.
“He [the chief justice] is human, he can be wrong and he is wrong on this one.”
“There is still an opening, still an opportunity for the people of the Cayman Islands to object to this marriage, seven days from the 2nd [of April, the date Chantelle Day and Vickie Bodden Bush’s public notice of marriage was issued]. If you miss the seven-day window, please attend the marriage, because it’s been a very public display and you have an opportunity to object. Make sure you object.
“You have an opportunity to object (referring to a standard part of most ceremonies). Make sure your objection is reasonable. Certainly, if it doesn’t do anything more, it will give the Attorney General’s Chamber some more time to file that stay of execution request before our Grand Court.”
“Last Friday, the 29th day of March, will be a Black Friday that will long be remembered in this jurisdiction.”
She said of Chief Justice Anthony Smellie, “He does not have legislative power nor the right to draft laws.”
“Democracy, I beg to submit, not only was on trial, is on trial, but was hung on Black Friday. It is up to us … to resuscitate democracy in this country.”
“This is a democratic country, simple as that. Majority rules and if you don’t like it, there are other places you can go. This is what democracy is about. It’s not about the minority having their way. It is about what the majority in a country wants.
“Once we open these doors, where does it stop? Right now, there is a movement in the US to claim that paedophilia is a kind of mental sickness, it is a disease. Then you have the polygamist, then the transgender who is going to want to use the same bathroom that little kids are going into, then there’s abortion.”
“I really couldn’t care less what people do in the privacy of their own homes. I am not a paragon of virtue and we are not running a theocracy but this is a democracy and majority rules. This goes against peace and tranquillity. When you try and take a minority position and shove it on the majority, this is what it causes.”
“I’m going to [ask the LGBT community] to please not accept the chief justice’s ruling, not accept the definition of marriage to be one between persons of the same sex or between two persons. … I believe their intention is not to try to undermine our social fabric … I believe their intention is one of ‘I want the rights that allow me to have life and family’ and there is a way to get that done without accepting the chief justice’s ruling.”
“[If the] LGBT community is willing to accept another structure of legislation that would allow them the other rights that were highlighted in the Bill of Rights without it being considered marriage, it is something that we as a society have to start thinking about.”
“We have to rectify the violations of these rights. We either accept same-sex marriages, and I don’t think anyone in this house agrees to that because of our Christian heritage and our cultural norms, or we have some sort of union that allows them to have those rights, because, otherwise, we could be sued every day. That’s the reality.”
“I just want to be real. There are three options; same-sex marriage, unions or independence. That’s the only way you can get out of it.”
“I stand by the moral values that my parents instilled in me and that I have passed on to my children and grandchildren, that marriage is between a man and a woman.
“God’s design is that children grow up in a stable environment provided by a man and a woman in a committed lifelong relationship. This design is clearly seen in God’s creation of Adam and Eve and God’s command for them to have children.
“Democracy is important to all of us and it is wonderful that we all stand strong together to defend and support it.
“We are working hard to protect your interest and concerns – we have taken note of how troubled the country is and ask for your continued prayers and support as we try to come to a positive solution.”
“Same-sex relationships are increasingly a reality of our society and we must respect the rights of those involved in these relationships. However, I believe it is wrong to change our Constitution and laws to change our long held understanding of what marriage is especially if this change is attempted through the court system rather than through the Legislative Assembly in a democratic manner.
“We must ensure all members of our community are treated fairly and with respect, but we must also remember this goes both ways. I have no doubt that the feelings of the majority of Caymanians are that marriage should retain its traditional meaning.”
“An amendment of this magnitude to the definition of marriage would impact existing laws around property, child protection, employee benefits, immigration and many more. Such an extensive change would clearly be more suited to proper parliamentary consideration and debate.
“Those who stand on Biblical authority in this matter are often accused of intolerance a lack of love or homophobia.
“However, we are elected to represent all people, including persons with diverse sexual preferences or lifestyles. There are other options to ensure we are not falling foul of any human rights infraction. There are other ways to recognise same-sex relationships – civil unions get the same thing, the same rights.
“While the UK sees the chief justice’s ruling as progressive, we as lawmakers staunchly disagree. England has had a long and difficult road to accepting such changes in their society and yet they want to rush us into an era that we are not ready for.”
“I fundamentally agree that discrimination in any form is wrong and should be abolished. However, as a Christian believer, I also accept that same-sex marriages run contrary to the living word of God and therefore it too is wrong.
“It is those traditions based on the Christian belief that sits at the foundation if not the bedrock of Caymanian culture and our national identity.
“None of us campaigned on the LGBT platform because not a single soul in our respective constituencies raised it as an issue near and dear to their hearts. They had other pressing priorities.
“Until the majority of the populous changes its point of view, we as servants of the people must defend the wishes of the people. We do not accept the ruling.”
Joey Hew, Roy McTaggart and Tara Rivers did not contribute to the debate. Premier Alden McLaughlin’s comments on the issue were covered last week.