The issue of same sex marriage is easily one of the most divisive topics Cayman has ever faced, and the outcome of the debate and vote on the Domestic Partnership Bill is indicative of that reality.
Though Cayman prides itself on its rich Christian heritage, it also positions itself as a modern, progressive society. And that creates an interesting paradox.
The Bill provides for an “alternative framework for the recognition of rights for people who wish not to marry” and is not limited to same sex partnerships. However, it has been seen as a straight vs gay debate.
Legislators spoke passionately as they debated the Bill, which the Premier was at pains to point out was not as a result of any government policy but because the Court of Appeal found Cayman to be in breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the corresponding section (9.1) of the Cayman Islands Constitution.
As the debate unfolded, the contributions of some have left many in our community shaking their heads at the absurdity of the choice of words from people elected as leaders. Regardless of where you stand on the issue of same sex relationships, it is unlikely that you may have been satisfied with the quality of debate from some legislators.
In the face of inevitable defeat, the Premier urged his fellow legislators to “vote their conscience”. In the end, the Bill was defeated by the narrowest of margins (nine votes to eight) with rejoicing from church supporters in the gallery and sighs by others who hoped to see a new day being ushered in to promote equality.
This issue has highlighted politicians’ ability to debate issues on merit and reason compared to impulse and emotion. One of the questions that linger is if this legislative exercise should be used as a barometer by which to test the suitability of its leaders.
As Cayman prepares to consider who should occupy the hallowed halls of the Legislative Assembly come next summer, it is clear that the microscope by which they will be doing so looms large.
Another lingering important question, however, is how will the people of Cayman preserve their proud Christian heritage, while showcasing themselves as an equally proud progressive country. That remains an interesting paradox.