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Local Business comments on the Domestic Partnerships Bill

Breaking News 24 Jul, 2020 Follow News

V. Joy Basdeo, MBE, JP, Notary Public

Comments on the Domestic Partnerships Bill, 2020 (the "Bill")

We write to provide our comments on the Bill, set out below, in our capacities as Civil Registrars of Marriage.

Summary Conclusions

In summary, while we appreciate the background and context in which the Bill was drafted, it is our view that the Bill is not fit for purpose and ignores practical and commercial considerations of the modern wedding industry in the Cayman Islands. Further, although we do not propose to dwell on legal aspects of the Bill as it relates to legal matters pertaining to Human Rights, it would be remiss of us to ignore the burdensome and undignified regime that would be created by the Bill.

Background to Civil Registrars in the Cayman Islands

A. The local capacity to appoint persons to the office of Civil Registrar first appears in the Marriage Law, 1963. We understand the drafting of this law was typical of marriage laws of the British Commonwealth at the time and was reflective of the Marriage Laws of Jamaica and the earlier Marriage Acts of England. Thus, the office of Civil Registrar has been enshrined in the laws of the Cayman Islands since the Islands first became a direct dependency of England.

B. Whilst deemed "Marriage Officers" by virtue of their office, there are marked and important differences between the appointments of Civil Registrar and Marriage Officer. First, only Ministers of religion may be appointed Marriage Officers,1 whereas Civil Registrars are appointed from persons deemed fit for the office. Secondly, unlike Marriage Officers whose right to refuse to act as such with respect to any marriage which is contrary to the rules of their religious denomination in enshrined since the inception of the Marriage Law, Civil Registrar do not enjoy a similar right of refusal. Thirdly, Civil Registrars are expressly prohibited from incorporating religious service when a marriage is solemnised before them. Thus, the office of Civil Registrar is an inherently secular one.

C. We understand the importance of the secular nature of the office of Civil Registrar can be traced back to when marriage ceased to be a religious institution and came under the control of the State, circa the English Marriage Act of 1836. Prior to this, marriages were required to be performed by ministers of the Church of England, and earlier acts were discriminatory of other religious denominations (Roman Catholics, in particular).2 The 1836 Act thus allowed civil marriages to be held in registry offices in towns and cities across England. The importance of the office of Civil Registrar is supported by a statutory oddity: Civil Registrars have a positive obligation to appoint another person to act as their deputy in the case of their illness or absence.3 Thus, the office of Civil Registrar can be said to have an important role in the carriage of the affairs of the State, namely the registration of all marriages.

The entire document can be downloaded here

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