Cayman Govt unlikely to deal with issue of same-sex marriage until 2020

Sunday, November 10, 2019

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GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands (CMC) — Premier Alden McLaughlin says his administration is unlikely to deal with the issue of same-sex marriage until early 2020.

The premier made the statement on Friday as he addressed the ruling handed down by the Court of Appeal concerning the controversial matter.

The appeals court ruling, which was handed down on Thursday, ordered the government to “expeditiously” provide two women, Chantelle Day and Vickie Bodden Bush, with legal status equivalent to marriage.

“Given that we have before us a two-year budget to get through, as well as a referendum, I do not see this honourable House turning our attention to this issue before early next year,” McLaughlin said.

This came even as Governor Martyn Roper, just moments before the premier's speech, called on legislators to act with “reasonable haste” to deal with the court's ruling.

In his Throne Speech on Friday, Roper urged lawmakers to temper their words when dealing with the issue of same-sex marriages.

“As governor, and representative of Her Majesty the Queen, it is my strong wish that, despite strong beliefs and opinions, everyone in this honourable House treats everyone with courtesy, dignity and respect,” Roper said.

The ruling overturned Chief Justice Anthony Smellie's decision in March to rewrite the local Marriage Law and alter the definition of marriage.

The premier, during his budget statement, said he expects the Legislative Assembly to consider “this matter expeditiously, but we cannot do so hastily”.

As the government makes its way to the issue, McLaughlin urged fellow legislators to read and carefully consider the Court of Appeal judgement.

He said the matter cannot be avoided any longer.

“I believe the responsible thing for this House to do is to face up to this issue and take its own decision,” he said.

If not, McLaughlin said the decision will be made for the Cayman Islands and that is an option no one would want.

“It is clear to me that if this legislature does not provide the legal framework that provides the protections for same-sex couples in a form that is acceptable to all Caymanians, then undoubtedly we will end up with the UK levying upon us protections that suit them rather than us,” he said.

McLaughlin contended that Cayman has “rightly complained” that on occasion the UK has overreached by interfering in matters that should be decided by Caymanians.

“By the same token, we cannot abdicate responsibility for taking the hard decisions when they are staring us in the face,” he said.

The premier pointed out that he was pleased that the Court of Appeal had agreed with government that the original ruling of the chief justice “created significant ambiguity” surrounding the Constitution and Bill of Rights, as well as the interpretation of and ability of the court to amend laws.

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