By Michael Jarvis, London UK
While Cayman grapples with the issue of its Domestic Partnership bill, the broader issue now entering the social and political discourse elsewhere in the region to an extent not seen before.
In Barbados, Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s high profile Welcome Mat international campaign inviting people to ‘work from home in Barbados’ is now coming under increased scrutiny and criticism at home and abroad over the country’s marriage laws which define marriage as a union between people of the opposite sex.
Barbados Welcome Mat campaign is being heavily promoted as a response to the economic effects of the COVID pandemic.
But as global interest grows in the programme, the government has had to address concerns raised by LGBT campaigners about the country’s constitution which does not recognise same-sex unions.
It has forced the government into rapid damage-control with Prime Minister Mottley declaring that there’s no place for any form of discrimination in her government, party or country.
Legislation to recognise domestic partnerships has been introduced in the country’s parliament, but already an outcry led by the churches is gaining momentum.
The sole parliamentary opposition People’s Party for Democracy and Development (PDP) is accusing the Mia Mottley Barbados Labour Party (BLP) administration of attempting to force through domestic partnership legislation without consulting citizens.
The PDP is lead by Bishop Joseph Atherley who was elected on a ticket of the ruling Barbados Labour Party (BLP) but subsequently crossed the floor.
According to the PDP, the government is trying to sneak in the Domestic Partnership law without a promised referendum on the controversial matter.
The new PDP holds the only opposition in the 30-seat Barbados parliament after the ruling BLP trounced the Democratic about Party (DLP) - its main rival and former government - in the 2018 election.
Domestic Partnerships are seen as a form of compromise legal status in the Caribbean’s predominantly Christian societies which resolutely advocate a bible-based view of marriage and any staus akin to it, as strictly between a man and woman.
Bermuda has instituted Domestic Partnership although that only came following a tumultuous legal tussle between the courts and the parliament.
While the law is now in place in Bermuda on the order of the courts, the government has challenged it at the Privy Council with a ruling expected later this year.
In Cayman, HE Governor Martyn Roper is embarking on a process of pubic consultation starting today (Monday 10th August) ahead of passage by decree on September 1st.
The Legislative Assembly earlier this month voted down the Cayman Islands version of Domestic Partnership, fashioned on the Bermuda model.
However, within short order Governor Roper overruled that outcome under his reserve constitutional powers as the bill’s rejection was deemed by the UK to have contravened the tenets of the territory’s constitution.
The developments in Cayman, Bermuda and now Barbados are being closely watched to see if a template emerges for the rest of the region.