With less than three weeks till the end of March, it appears unlikely that government will bring about any form of same-sex legislation within the first quarter of this year.
During the November meeting of the Legislative Assembly, Premier Alden McLaughlin urged his fellow lawmakers to do “the responsible thing”, and “face up to the decision” by bringing about a legal framework for same-sex couples by the end of the first quarter of 2020.
“I think I can safely say this – if this Legislative Assembly does not put in place legal framework for civil unions within, I’d say, the first quarter of next year, the United Kingdom government is going to probably, all indications are, reintroduce same-sex marriage,” said McLaughlin.
Any framework that would provide same-sex couples with the legal equivalent to marriage would have to be introduced as a bill before the Legislative Assembly. However, with fewer than 20 days remaining in March, Cayman’s Constitution effectively bars the government from bringing about draft legislation before the end of the month, except in an emergency.
Section 77(2) of the Cayman Islands Constitution Order 2009 states in part, “Standing Orders shall require that, except in a case of emergency, every Bill introduced by the Government shall be published at least 21 days before the commencement of the meeting at which it is scheduled to be introduced.”
Zena Merren-Chin, the clerk of the Legislative Assembly, said, “It takes at least seven members to call a meeting. It is the Speaker of the House who must call a meeting and I am not aware of any meeting being called. I have not been provided with any legislation to circulate to any of the members.”
The premier’s comments at the November meeting of the House came one day after the Court of Appeal overturned Chief Justice Anthony Smellie’s landmark ruling that legalised same-sex marriage in Cayman. In their judgment, the Court of Appeal judges ordered the government to “expeditiously” provide Chantelle Day and her partner Vickie Bodden Bush, with a legal status equivalent to marriage.
Day and Bodden Bush had challenged Cayman’s Marriage Law in February 2019 on the grounds that it was discriminatory and violated their human rights. However, the appeals court found there was no discrimination.
In January, Attorney General Samuel Bulgin, during the Grand Court opening, said his office was in the process of drafting legislation that would introduce a legal framework for same-sex couples.
On Tuesday, Roy Tatum, head of the Premier’s Office, told the Cayman Compass that there was “no timeline at the moment”.
He said, “This has the Government’s attention and, as the AG said in January at the opening of the Grand Court, ‘the process is starting’, and his office is working on a bill for the consideration by Government.”
At the time of the appeals court’s ruling, the justices recommended that if the Cayman Islands government failed to provide Day and Bodden Bush with legal status, the UK government should step in.
The judgment reads in part, “in the absence of expeditious action by the Legislative Assembly, we would expect the United Kingdom Government to recognise its legal responsibility and take action to bring this unsatisfactory state of affairs to an end”.
Although the judgment called for expeditious action, it did not provide a timeline.