Governor Martyn Roper will use his powers under section 81 of the constitution to assent to the recently defeated Domestic Partnership Bill and expects the law to be enacted by the beginning of next month, according to a statement released by the Governor’s Office.
“As Governor, this is not a position I would ever have wanted to be in,” Roper is quoted as saying in the release. “Since arriving in October 2018, I have fully respected Cayman’s extensive responsibility for dealing with domestic matters. But I cannot simply stand aside when it comes to upholding the rule of law and complying with international obligations, which fall squarely within my responsibilities as Governor.”
The Cayman Islands Court of Appeal last year overturned Chief Justice Anthony Smellie’s ruling granting Vickie Bodden Bush and Chantelle Day the right to marry, but also mandated Cayman’s government “act expeditiously” to create a legal equivalent of marriage for same-sex couples.
“The failure of the Legislative Assembly to pass the Domestic Partnership Bill leaves me, as Governor and the UK Government, with no option but to act to uphold the law”
The resulting Domestic Partnership Bill was defeated last week in the Legislative Assembly, 9-8.
“The failure of the Legislative Assembly to pass the Domestic Partnership Bill leaves me, as Governor and the UK Government, with no option but to act to uphold the law,” Roper said.
“It was clear to me that the bill would satisfy the legal requirement and at the same time maintain the current definition of marriage. I fully recognise how sensitive and controversial this issue is. But it was my expectation, and that of the FCO [Foreign and Commonwealth Office], that all lawmakers would recognise their legal responsibility and pass the Bill after debate in the Legislative Assembly.”
Roper plans to publish a version of the current bill on 10 Aug. and allow 21 days for consultation by the public and members of the Legislative Assembly, as required in the Cayman Islands Constitution. The Governor’s Office and Attorney General Samuel Bulgin will be available to consider additional comments on the provisions of the bill, according to the statement.
The governor expects the bill to be gazetted and be implemented into law at the beginning of September. A number of consequential pieces of legislation will be amended at the same time to bring them into line with the new law. These will also be published for consultation on 10 Aug.
“In seeking to find a way forward, I believe I have been consistent and true to my pledge when I arrived to serve all the people of these wonderful islands to the best of my ability,” Roper said. “I hope we can soon put this divisive debate behind us and come together as a people as we continue to navigate our way through a challenging global pandemic.”
Deputy Opposition Leader and Newlands legislator Alva Suckoo, when contacted by the Compass, declined comment as the Opposition had not yet discussed the announcement.
Attorney Leonardo Raznovich, who provides legal counsel for local LGBTQ advocacy group Colours Cayman, celebrated the governor’s decision.
“Let’s not lose sight that we are here because the legislators last week decided to take us into a path of anarchy,” Raznovich told the Compass. “To reject the DPB [Domestic Partnership Bill], as they did, they placed themselves above the law of the land. The governor had no option but to put them back where they ought to be according to the Constitution: under the law.”
Raznovich added that he wished the governor had gone a step further and introduced legislation that would have provided marriage to same-sex couples. The current bill provides a framework for same-sex couples to enjoy benefits legally equivalent that those of married heterosexual couples, but allows for the legal definition of a marriage to only be between a man and a woman. Bodden Bush and Day have taken their legal battle to the UK Privy Council, and Raznovich hopes the case will result in the legalisation of same-sex marriage in the Cayman Islands.
“Their case remains strong as a matter of equality under the constitution and the [Privy Council] will almost certainly say that,” Raznovich said.