First same-sex couples celebrate civil unions

Samantha Louise Erksine and Alice Hillman Lopez have become the first same-sex couple in Cayman to have their union legally recognised here under the recently introduced Civil Partnership Law.

The couple, who got married in the United Kingdom three years ago, received their Recognition of Overseas Relationship certificate from Joy Basdeo of Simply Weddings, who is a registrar of civil unions, on 29 Oct.

Under the new Civil Partnership Law, same-sex couples who have been married or had a civil union formalised overseas, now can have their partnerships recognised in Cayman.

Another couple who have filed for a civil partnership certificate held their civil union ceremony before Basdeo on Saturday, 24 Oct. and are awaiting their official documentation. Basdeo said the couple had requested no publicity.

Erksine, in an interview with the Cayman Compass after she and Lopez collected their certificate, said, “It is amazing to finally have our marriage rights recognised in the Cayman Islands.”

In September, regulations for the implementation of the Civil Partnership Law took effect, allowing same-sex couples in Cayman to file for and register civil unions. Those regulations were approved by Governor Martyn Roper in consultation with Premier Alden McLaughlin.

It follows Roper’s enactment of the legislation in August, days after similar legislation was voted down by Cayman’s lawmakers in the Legislative Assembly.

Dream come true
Erksine, who has lived in Cayman since the age of 15, said she did not think the day would come that her relationship would be recognised here, but she is proud to see this change happen.

Samantha Erksine (right) and Alice Hillman Lopez when they got married three years ago. Photo: Submitted

For Hillman Lopez, it was a dream come true – one she credits same-sex couple Chantelle Day and Vickie Bodden Bush for making happen.

“First of all, I want to thank Chants and Vickie for paving the road for us. I would never think we would be the first one to receive this certification in the Cayman Islands,” she said.

Day and Bodden Bush challenged the local marriage law on the grounds of discrimination. Chief Justice Anthony Smellie ruled in their favour last year, but his decision was overturned by the Court of Appeal which stated that the Cayman Islands government must provide a legal framework equivalent to marriage for same-sex couples.

Erksine and Hillman Lopez, who have been together for six years, admired their newly minted certificate, which bears the number 001.

While there was initial negativity in some quarters of the community when the law was enacted, Basdeo said that has changed.

“I have had no negative feedback at all,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of positive feedback. I think things are settling down now and people are realising it’s not really that big a thing for the community. It is a big thing for the couples concerned to have their rights recognised and their unions recognised.”

Erksine and Hillman Lopez said having their partnership recognised in Cayman law seems surreal, as they were forced go to the UK to get their union formalised.

“It was very difficult, but we wanted to just make it a formal thing. We were planning at the time to have a baby. … We actually registered to marry almost a year before we did go back [to the UK] to get married. During that time, we had the baby,” she said.

The couple have a 3-year-old son.

Hillman Lopez said getting married in the UK was tough, as they’d wanted to wed in Cayman, but they had their family with them and a lot of support, “and that for us is the important part”.

Erksine said she believes acceptance of same-sex couples here is “50/50” at the moment.

However, the couple both remain hopeful that will change over time.

“By us having the same rights as you, we do not take anything from you. So, in other words, we are not taking a bigger slice of the pie. We are just belonging, and we are just having the same equal rights as any human being in the Cayman Islands,” Hillman Lopez said.

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