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CIVIL PARTNERSHIPS NOW LEGAL IN CAYMAN

Front Pages 04 Sep, 2020 Follow News

CIVIL PARTNERSHIPS NOW LEGAL IN CAYMAN

CIVIL PARTNERSHIP FOR SAME-SEX AND OTHER COUPLES NOW LEGAL IN CAYMAN

“In line with instructions from UK Ministers to use my reserved powers under s81 of the Constitution, I have today given Assent to the Civil Partnership Law and 11 consequential pieces of legislation.”

With that proclamation, HE Governor Martyn Roper made history in the Cayman Islands Friday as he used his constitutional prerogative to overrule the jurisdiction's Legislative Assembly and enact a controversial law which is now known as the Civil Partnership Law.

Rejected by the Assembly in a 9-8 vote a few weeks ago as the Domestic Partnership Bill, the law gives same-sex couples - and others not wishing to have a religious ceremony - rights under law as an “equivalency” of the Cayman Islands Marriage Act.

It came out of a directive in an Appeal Court ruling into an ongoing case seeking recognition of same-sex marriages in Cayman.

While the Appeal Court ruled in favour of the government's appeal challenging a previous court ruling which had legalised same-sex marriage, it however directed the government to institute legislation giving same-sex couples a status "functionally equivalent to marriage".

EMOTIVE

The issue has divided opinions throughout the society of deeply held Christian religious convictions.

“I recognise that this issue is highly emotive and difficult for many people across our Islands. At the same time I have received a large amount of correspondence and direct representations in support of using s81 (Section 81 of the constitution) to bring this law into effect,” Mr Roper said in a detailed statement on Friday.

Following the previous Domestic P{artnership's Bill defeat in the Assembly, the Governor undertook a round of public consultations mainly via media talk shows, press interviews and meetings with concerned groups between August 10th and 31st to explain his decision and gauge public feedback and views.

He encountered a mixture of severe criticism and strong support both for his decision to resort to his Reserve Power and over the nature of the bill.

With the 21-day consultation period ended on 31 August,Mr Roper said, "The Attorney General’s Office, Deputy Governor and I have carefully considered all comments received. As a result, a number of amendments were made to the draft legislation discussed by the Legislative Assembly.

"These were aimed principally at strengthening the effectiveness of the Legislation. As previously announced, the title has changed to Civil Partnership in response to feedback received. A number of pieces of consequential legislation have been updated to ensure they apply to those who enter civil partnerships. The changes to the law and the consequential legislation are set out in the attached document."

DUTY

Mr Roper, who has repeatedly said that he reluctantly took the unilateral route to enact the law, stated:

“UK Ministers instructed me to take this action to uphold the rule of law and comply with the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal Judgment in November 2019. The Court of Appeal declared that same sex couples were entitled, expeditiously, to legal protection in the Cayman Islands, which is functionally equivalent to marriage.

"The Court also declared that in the absence of expeditious action by the Legislative Assembly, they would expect the United Kingdom Government to recognise its legal responsibility and “take action to bring this unsatisfactory state of affairs to an end”.

He further stated that: “After the narrow vote on 29 July against the Domestic Partnership Bill, it was evident from my consultations with the Premier and others that there was no prospect of the Bill coming back to the Legislative Assembly, or if it did that it would be successfully passed."

"The UK therefore had no option but to step in to ensure we comply with the rule of law and international obligations under the terms of the European Convention on Human Rights,” he explained.

REASSURANCE

Today’s historic decision to enact Civil Partnership in the Cayman Islands, ends one chapter of the debate, although it’s clear that it will take some time for the society to adjust to the new reality.

“Today we will end the discrimination being suffered by Caymanians and others on our islands whilst protecting the institution of marriage. This action does not alter or undermine the strong Christian heritage and values of the people of the Cayman Islands. No-one is being asked to change their long-held beliefs,” Governor Roper sought to reassure in his statement.

"But what we are required to do is provide a legal framework functionally equivalent to marriage for same-sex couples, from which heterosexual couples will also be able to benefit, should they so choose. That is necessary to comply with our own courts and our Constitution. The Government of the Cayman Islands and the Attorney-General have accepted that this is a legal requirement that cannot be ignored.”

Mr Roper reminded: “As the Court of Appeal stated - that Cayman had such an obligation has been apparent for several years. An important principle in our Constitution and Bill of Rights is the protection of minorities. That principle protects all of us, now and in the future. We cannot pick and choose which rights are protected.”

“I urge everyone to recognise that same-sex couples have the right to legal and financial protection like everyone else. Accepting diversity and difference shows to the world that we are a caring community based on mutual respect, tolerance and equality for all,” he added.

CONTENTIOUS

The contentious issue has stirred debate on the broader extent of the relationship between the Cayman Islands and the UK as the administrative authority, especially regarding the powers of British-appointed Governors in the Cayman Islands and other Overseas Territories(OTs).

Regarding that aspect, Governor Roper declared: “Let me also reiterate that Cayman retains full autonomy for domestic issues including in education and immigration. The UK fully respects Cayman’s autonomy in domestic affairs. Indeed this will be made even clearer in the package of constitutional changes that are likely to be adopted later this year.

“UK intervention in this manner is extremely rare,” he stated, adding that: “As Governor it is not a position I would ever have wanted to be in. Abolition of the death penalty in 1991 and legalising homosexuality in 2000 were previous examples where the UK intervened to ensure its legal and international obligations, in a British Overseas Territory, were upheld. It is wrong to suggest that the UK will seek additional pretexts for intervening.”

On the Civil Partnership Law coming into force today, Mr Roper explained the operational process.

“The law comes into effect once gazetted today. However, operationally the Civil Service will require a delay of 21 days before starting to accept and process applications for registration of civil partnerships,” Governor Roper noted.

The new law also includes changes to 11 other of related laws.

He expressed the hope that today’s enactment of the Civil Partnership Law will now bring closure to the issue which caused huge divisions along lines of religious belief and what’s considered culturally and socially acceptable in the Cayman Islands.

“I do hope that everyone on the islands can now move forward with their lives and come together as a community. Let us refocus our energies on pressing matters such as responding to the global pandemic, rebuilding our economy and protecting our environment,” Mr Roper urged.

A related matter concerning the recognition of same-sex marriage from which this issue developed, is now before the Privy Council and a hearing and ruling are awaited.


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