The mandate of the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal is clear – government must create a legal equivalent of marriage for same-sex couples.
It’s likely not the outcome Vickie Bodden Bush and Chantelle Day were seeking, especially after Chief Justice Anthony Smellie previously granted them the right to marry in the Cayman Islands – the first such case of a same-sex couple being granted that right on our shores.
The court overturned that ruling on Thursday based on a number of factors. We won’t get into all of them; the full ruling is available on our website, caymancompass.com.
During litigation, however, government’s attorneys did accept the fact that Cayman’s Bill of Rights prohibits discrimination and, therefore, requires lawmakers to provide Day and Bodden Bush with a legal status functionally equivalent to marriage, such as civil partnership.
The Cayman Compass editorial board urges government to adhere to this order. However, whether it will do so or when it will do so remains to be seen.
“It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Legislative Assembly has been doing all it can to avoid facing up to its legal obligations,” the court wrote.
For what it’s worth, Premier Alden McLaughlin acknowledged Thursday that government would have to act on the issue. He stopped short, however, of committing to table such legislation or to a timetable in which that may be done.
Should government not act “expeditiously” and continue to drag its feet on the issue, there appears to be limited legal recourse remaining in Cayman. There could be an appeal to the Privy Council. The UK government could step in and, as the court put it, “take action to bring this unsatisfactory state of affairs to an end”.
But those steps will further drag out an issue to the financial and emotional costs of all involved.
We implore the Cayman Islands government to heed the advice of the Court of Appeal and immediately provide a way forward in which same-sex couples can enjoy the same legal status and rights of marriage as heterosexual couples, such as through a civil union. It may not be what proponents of same-sex marriage were seeking (and still believe is unconstitutional) but it certainly would be a step in the right direction.
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