DEBATE INTENSIFIES AS CONSULTATIONS CLOSE ON CONTROVERSIAL 'PARTNERSHIP' BILL
Saying he understood the “extremely sensitive” nature of the controversy surrounding the Domestic Partnership Bill, HE Governor Martyn Roper is this weekend wrapping a series of public consultations ahead of his decision to unilaterally enact the bill.
Another protest against it was planned for this weekend.
Governor Roper has resorted to his Reserve Powers under Article 81 of the Cayman Islands constitution to pass the law after it was defeated in the Legislative Assembly in a close 9-8 vote a month ago.
That move which been questioned by some Members of the Legislative Assembly(MLAs) and other segments of the community was already anticipated during debate of the bill in the Legislative Assembly.
Mr Roper subsequently said he was left with no alternative.
While the bill itself which will give legal recognition to same-sex unions outside the Marriage Act is a very contentious and polarising issue, the authority of Governors having the power to override government and Legislative decisions has also been cast into the spotlight again.
It is one of the points down for constitutional review talks between the British and Caymanian governments and positions are expected to be now even more entrenched over it.
Among those who have questioned the Governor's decision to resort to his Reserve Power to enact the bill is the Ministers Association of leaders of the clergy.
They had written to the Governor challenging the basis for his intervention and calling on him to “withdraw all the bills and amendments you have proposed to enact.”
“Again, we believe a misinterpretation of Section 81 and Section 55 of the Constitution of the Cayman Islands means you are overstepping your authority to take the course of action you have set out in this matter.
For all of these reasons we would expect you to withdraw all the bills and amendments you have proposed to enact,” the Ministers Association had said in a letter to Governor Roper.
In a Facebook post after meeting with the Ministers Association on Friday Mr Roper reported:
“I have also just discussed the matter with the Cayman Ministers’ Association. We were not able to agree on many issues but we understand each other better after our meeting. I recognise that it remains highly sensitive for many but that others strongly welcome it.
“I continue to believe that the Bill, and associated legislation, is a sensible albeit difficult compromise enabling us to comply with our laws and Constitution, end discrimination suffered Caymanians and others in our community and protect the institution of marriage.”
The Governor has been making several media appearances and has utilised his very active Facebook social media presence as part of his public outreach on the divisive issue.
Commenting about his interview on Cayman Crosstalk he said, “As ever, a lively discussion. Many callers do not agree with the Partnerships Bill and some have strong views. I respect their right to put their views across and am pleased we had a courteous, polite and respectful exchange of views.”
That was a reflection of other media interviews the Governor has given on the issue.
He referred to the Domestic Partnerships Bill as it is currently officially named as the ‘Partnerships Bill’.
Mr Roper has indicated that the bill was likely to be renamed as a civil union or civil partnership following feedback that he has obtained from his ongoing consultations which end on Monday.
That seems to be the most significant change so far, although it was expected that several laws related to the bill will be amended before it becomes law.
When he announced on August 5th that he was invoking his constitutional prerogative following the defeat of Domestic Partnership Bill on July 29th, Governor Roper outlined following a 21-day consultation period - which started on August 10th - he would review the outcomes with the Attorney General before enacting the legislation.
“At the end of this period, acting under instructions from the Foreign Secretary, I will use my Reserved Powers under Section 81 of the Constitution to assent to the Bill. I expect it to be gazetted and come into law at the beginning of September,” he said then.
The legalisation of same-sex unions in the Cayman Islands has drawn interest and attention from outside the jurisdiction.
One of the most recent comes from an organisation called Caribbean Cause described as “an alliance of Christian organisations that challenge anti-biblical and antiscientific ideologies, law and policies in the public sphere and work towards stability and sustainable development of the region by defending and promoting biblical values in their respective Caribbean societies and beyond.”
In a release dated August 24th, the Jamaica-based organisation with representatives in Cayman and elsewhere in the region said:
“It is unfortunate, but not unexpected, that Governor Martyn Roper intends to impose same-sex Domestic Partnership on the Cayman Islands.
"It is unfortunate because the Governor has chosen to abuse his power as the British representative in Cayman Islands to overturn the decision of the democratically elected Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs)."
Caribbean Cause further stated: “It is imperative that the people of the Cayman Islands join with their MLAs here and now to resist any attempt to re-order their society to accommodate the sexual lawlessness that is bound up in LGBT ideologies.”
In one of his several social media postings, Mr Roper had stated:
“I continue to recognise this is a very sensitive and emotive issue for many people in our community. I did not want to be put in this position. But I am left with no choice and must uphold the rule of law.”
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