PREMIER REACTS TO IMPOSITION OF CIVIL PARTNERSHIP BILL
Reaction to the imposition of the Civil partnership law by Governor Roper has been swift in coming.
Hon. Premier Alden McLaughlin issued a statement and social media post on Friday following the Governor unilaterally assenting to the law under his Reserve Power.
“As Premier, I am utterly humiliated that because of our failure to do our duty as a Legislature, the UK Government has been forced to legislate for us.”
Mr McLaughlin added: “Notwithstanding our firm faith in God and strong Christian heritage, Cayman is not a theocracy but a democracy, and no democracy can long survive if it does not respect the rule of law.”
He said: “I have been shocked that so many of our Legislators and, indeed, members of the broader community believe that it was right to urge the Government to ignore a declaration of our own Court of Appeal. And, that they also believe that the Government is free to decide what category of persons are entitled to enjoy the constitutionally guaranteed right to private and family life.”
Emotions have been inflamed over what was previously known as the Domestic Partnership Bill but has now been brought into legislation by the Governor as the Civil Partnership Law.
Mr McLaughlin stated: “But I pray that now that the Civil Partnership Law has been assented to by His Excellency, the Governor, it will be accepted as the law of the land and the campaign against same-sex relationships will end along with the demeaning rhetoric which has unfortunately characterised the public debate,” he said about the issue which has seen strong views expressed with Cayman’s Christian heritage as the main reference point.
“My faith tells me that we are all created in the same ‘image’ and must reckon with God each for ourselves," he admonished.
"Jesus urged us to do unto others as we would have done to us. The introduction of the Domestic Partnership Bill was the right thing to do as a society that values each and every person within it, regardless of race, creed, gender or sexual orientation.”
The Premier noted: “Regrettably, much of the debate inside the Legislative Assembly and in the media has caused our sisters and brothers in the LGBT community to feel belittled, undervalued and ostracised. Jesus never treated people in that way, ever.”
He said he was “hard-pressed to find a reference in the gospels where Jesus castigated ‘outsiders’ even when their lifestyles didn’t comply with his view.”
Mr McLaughlin appealed: “Let us as a community now seek to do as Jesus did.”
Earlier on Friday, the Hon. Minister of Education and Agriculture, Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, Second Elected Member for Cayman Brac and Little Cayman voiced her strongly held views on the issue prior to the Governor publishing his proclamation.
She described it as “an evil that is being forced upon us” and said it would cause “a seismic shift in our Christian heritage”.
MINISTER FOR OVERSEAS TERRITORIES RESPONDS TO OPPOSTION LEADER
Meanwhile, in his statement on Friday coinciding with the enactment of the controversial law, HE Governor Martyn Roper released a statement from the UK Minister for the Overseas Territories Baroness Liz Sugg in which she responded to objections raised by the Official Opposition about the law and the Governor’s use of his Reserve Power to override the Legislative Assembly which had voted it down.
Referring to a letter dated August 13th from Hon. Leader of the Opposition Arden McLean, the Overseas Territories Minister wrote:
“I recognise that same-sex partnership is seen as a controversial issue by many in the Cayman Islands and that feelings run high on both sides.
"I firmly believe that the strongest, safest and most prosperous societies are those in which all citizens can live freely without fear of discrimination, and where all citizens, including members of the LGBT community, can play a full and active part in society."
Stating that the rule of law must be upheld in the UK and all of the Overseas Territories, Baroness Sugg went on to say:
“As you know, in November 2019, the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal overturned a previous ruling legalising same-sex marriage, but found that the claimants were entitled, expeditiously, to legal protection in the Cayman Islands that is functionally equivalent to marriage and indicated that the Legislative Assembly should act quickly to that effect.”
She noted that the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal judgment also stated that should the Legislative Assembly fail to take expeditious action, the court would expect the UK Government “to recognise its legal responsibility and take action to bring this unsatisfactory state of affairs to an end”.
The Overseas Territories Minister commended "the efforts of the Government for bringing legislation to recognise same sex relationships in law to the Legislative Assembly, to address a breach of Section 9 of the Cayman Islands Bill of Rights.”
She also stated: “ I was disappointed that the Legislative Assembly felt they could not comply with the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal judgment, notably as the remit of the Legislative Assembly is to uphold the law.”
One issue that has figured in the debate locally surrounding the Civil Partnership Law has been the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
But according to the Overseas Territories Minister: “ You will recall that the judgment also made reference to the non-compliance with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The UK is committed to membership of the Council of Europe and its principle convention, the ECHR. This will not change as we leave the European Union,” she affirmed.
“For this reason, I wrote to the Governor on 5 August 2020, instructing him to use his reserved powers under section 81 of the Cayman Islands Constitution to enact legislation to ensure the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal decision is complied with, to give legal protection which is functionally equivalent to marriage to same-sex couples.”
Saying she did not take that decision lightly, Baroness Sugg stated that “it was necessary to ensure the rule of law is maintained in the Cayman Islands."
“You will have seen my instruction letter, as I gave permission to the Governor to publish what is usually confidential correspondence,” she added.
Regarding reservations expressed by the Officials Opposition that there was insufficient time for public consultation, she differed on that point:
“I do not agree that there was insufficient time to discuss the Domestic Partnerships Bill," she wrote.
"The Government published the bill for a 28-day period of public consultation, one week longer than is normal practice, and it was extensively debated in the Legislative Assembly. Indeed, the Governor published it for a further 21-day period of consultation, with substantive legal comments under consideration by the Attorney General’s Office.”
Mr McLean had copied his letter to the Overseas territories Minister to his colleague Opposition Leaders as well as the Premiers of the other OTs and Baroness Sugg did likewise in her response.
“Like your original letter, I have copied this letter to the Premiers and Opposition Leaders in Bermuda and the other Caribbean Overseas Territories.”
A response from Opposition Leader Mr McLean to the developments on Friday was said to be forthcoming.