Governor Martyn Roper has made good on his promise to move forward with the Domestic Partnership Bill, publishing on Monday an amended version of the legislation together with 11 accompanying legislative amendments.
The Governor’s Office, in a brief statement, announced the publication of the contentious bill, as well as amendments to the Adoption of Children Law, Evidence Law, Immigration (Transition) Law and Mental Health Law, among others.
The governor has made some minor amendments to the original Domestic Partnership Bill that was defeated by lawmakers in the Legislative Assembly late last month.
That bill, which was piloted by Premier Alden McLaughlin, was voted down nine to eight by lawmakers on 29 July after two days of debate. Three members on the government bench sided with the Opposition to defeat the bill.
Less than a week later, Roper issued a statement announcing that he will use his powers under section 81 of the Constitution to assent to the bill, adding that he expected the law to be enacted by the beginning of next month.
In a brief comment to the Cayman Compass on Monday the Governor’s Office said the newly published Domestic Partnership Bill was largely the same as the legislation presented in the LA.
However, the Governor’s Office said there were minor changes which were “reflective of comments that were made during the debate and those made prior to debate. We envisage further amendments will be made during the 21-day consultation period before the final bill is assented to.”
In his brief statement on the publication of the legislation, Roper said he was doing so “in accordance with section 81 of the Cayman Islands Constitution and with the prior approval of the Secretary of State”.
Last year the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal overturned Chief Justice Anthony Smellie’s ruling granting Vickie Bodden Bush and Chantelle Day the right to marry, but it also mandated Cayman’s government “act expeditiously” to create a legal equivalent of marriage for same-sex couples.
Roper said he believes the Domestic Partnership Bill addresses that ruling while protecting marriage in Cayman as a union between a man and a woman.
McLaughlin, in a statement following Roper’s decision last week to enact the law, said the action was expected.
The premier said he believed the UK will now decide to retain section 81 of the Cayman Islands Constitution which gives the governor the ability to enact legislation if it appears Cabinet is unwilling to introduce a bill to the Legislative Assembly or that lawmakers are unwilling to pass a bill.
He said the failure of the Legislative Assembly to do its duty “has set back our efforts at increased autonomy immeasurably”.
The UK had previously agreed to remove section 81 as part of pending constitutional changes. Those changes are yet to be issued to Cayman.
Opposition Leader Arden McLean, in his response to Roper’s announcement last week, registered concern over the action being taken.
He has requested copies of emails between Roper and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office following the governor’s announcement on pushing through the recently defeated Domestic Partnership Bill.
Bills open for comment
Members of the public have 21 days to comment on the 12 bills which have been published and should email their remarks to [email protected].
Some of the amendments to the accompanying legislation, which work in tandem with the Domestic Partnership Bill, are administrative in nature.
Other changes reflect amendments or replacement of phrases to incorporate partnerships or domestic partnership versus married or spouses and give effect to legal processes involving those who enter into these partnerships.
The immigration amendment addresses a concern raised by Deputy Opposition Leader Alva Suckoo that the Domestic Partnership Bill will open the gates for ‘sham’ partnerships and lead to an increase in population.
According to the proposed amendment, section 70 of the Immigration (Transition) Amendment Bill will be repealed “to make it clear that domestic partnerships of convenience, like marriages of convenience, will not [be] permitted”.
It will also provide for domestic partners to be able to, among other things, obtain through their partners Caymanian status, permanent residence and Residency and Employment Rights Certificates.
“Any right which is given under the principal Law to a spouse will be extended to a domestic partner. The provisions relating to loss of rights will also apply,” the proposed legislation states in its objects and reasons preamble.
Published bills with links:
- Domestic Partnership Bill, 2020 http://gazettes.gov.ky/portal/pls/portal/docs/1/12994543.PDF
- Adoption of Children (Amendment) Bill, 2020 http://gazettes.gov.ky/portal/pls/portal/docs/1/12994544.PDF
- Evidence (Amendment) Bill, 2020 http://gazettes.gov.ky/portal/pls/portal/docs/1/12994545.PDF
- Health Insurance (Amendment) Bill, 2020; http://gazettes.gov.ky/portal/pls/portal/docs/1/12994546.PDF
- Immigration (Transition) (Amendment) (NO.2) Bill, 2020 http://gazettes.gov.ky/portal/pls/portal/docs/1/12994547.PDF
- Mental Health (Amendment) Bill, 2020 http://gazettes.gov.ky/portal/pls/portal/docs/1/12994548.PDF
- National Pensions (Amendment) (NO.2) Bill, 2020 http://gazettes.gov.ky/portal/pls/portal/docs/1/12994549.PDF
- Penal Code (Amendment) Bill, 2020 http://gazettes.gov.ky/portal/pls/portal/docs/1/12994550.PDF
- Protection From Domestic Violence (Amendment) Bill, 2020 http://gazettes.gov.ky/portal/pls/portal/docs/1/12994551.PDF
- Public Service Pensions (Amendment) Bill, 2020 http://gazettes.gov.ky/portal/pls/portal/docs/1/12994552.PDF
- Succession (Amendment) Bill, 2020 http://gazettes.gov.ky/portal/pls/portal/docs/1/12994553.PDF
- Wills (Amendment) Bill, 2020 http://gazettes.gov.ky/portal/pls/portal/docs/1/12994542.PDF