Governor reassures LGBTQ community over civil partnership rights

Says if Anglin court action succeeds the UK would have to act, if Gov't does not

Governor Martyn Roper has said he believes the right of LGBTQ+ people in Cayman to civil partnerships will be protected, regardless of the outcome of a legal challenge before the courts.

Roper, speaking at Colours Caribbean’s first anniversary celebrations at the weekend, said there are several options on the table, even if a judicial review challenging the use of his special reserved power in enacting the Civil Partnership Law succeeds.

On 4 Sept. 2020 Roper used his emergency powers outlined in Section 81 of the Cayman Islands Constitution Order to assent to the civil partnership legislation.

While the governor pointed out he could not comment on that case, he said the law will still stand.

“Even if there is an outcome to that [challenge] which says that certain powers should have been used or a different power should have been used, I believe the law will remain in place,” he told the audience gathered at Central Terrace in Bayshore Mall on Saturday night, 19 June.

He stated that two options remained viable, should the judicial review succeed.

First, the PACT government could bring the bill back, which he said, the community can “be more optimistic about that than in the past”. During this year’s election campaign, he said “every single candidate, more or less, accepted civil partnerships and said Cayman should move on”, which he said he viewed positively.

However, Roper added, if no action is taken then the UK can act.

“I think it can give us some optimism for the future. But if the government doesn’t act, the UK would have to and I would be urging the UK to do that very strongly, I can assure you,” he said.

Roper assented to the Civil Partnership Law after the Progressives-led government last year failed to pass the Domestic Partnership Bill which was voted down in the then-Legislative Assembly.

Anglin’s request for a judicial review, which called Roper’s move an unlawful and irrational use of his emergency powers, will be heard later this year.

The governor told those gathered at the anniversary celebration that more than 70 people so far have asked to be legally recognised as part of a civil partnership.

“I am very proud that I was able to introduce the Civil Partnership legislation. I wish the Legislative Assembly had been able to pass it but that wasn’t the case. I know it’s a really difficult battle to get legal protection for the LGBT+ community in Cayman. But we do have that legal protection in the Cayman Islands. We should be very satisfied and celebrate that,” Roper said.

He commended Colours Caribbean, headed by Billie Bryan, and same-sex couple Chantelle Day and Vicki Bodden Bush for the “absolutely incredible job that they’ve done”.

“They’ve really fought for their rights and we all applaud what they have done,” he said.

The couple was instrumental in the fight for same-sex rights in the Cayman Islands. They challenged the local Marriage Law on the grounds of discrimination. A Privy Council decision is pending in their case.

Roper also welcomed the first-ever pride march planned for Saturday, 31 July, which he said he was “very happy to attend” and will be leading.

He said he was hoping Premier Wayne Panton and government ministers will be there, too.

“I do think there has been a change and it’s a change for the better. I do want to say, I recognise it is still incredibly difficult for the LGBT+ community. We have a long way to go in the Cayman Islands. But I think we can have some optimism and confidence that we are moving forward. Maybe not as fast as a lot of people want, but it is progress,” Roper added.

At the event, Nancy Kelley, CEO of international LGBTQ advocacy group Stonewall, delivered a video message.

She also commended the work that Colours Caribbean has been doing and its plans to bring together other similar organisations within the region.

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