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Same Sex Marriage on Center Stage in Court of Appeals

Community 02 Oct, 2019 Follow News

Same Sex Marriage on Center Stage in Court of Appeals

The Court of Appeals is now mulling over its decision regarding same-sex marriage in the Cayman Islands after a three day hearing in a landmark case that has not only reverberated locally but around the world.


Chantelle Day and Vickie Bodden are now awaiting the decision of the Court o Appeals after the hearing’s completion on 30th August.


The couple received a favorable ruling in initial proceedings, which took place in March of this year and culminated in the Cayman Islands’ Chief Justice Anthony Smelly ruling that the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman was unconstitutional and violated multiple rights.


The Chief Justice’s ruling led to celebrations for proponents of gay marriage in the Cayman Islands at the time and plans for a wedding day were announced by the couple. However, not everyone shared this sentiment and the chief justice’s decision was soon delayed after the CI government announced its intention to appeal the decision.


In addition to bing granted an appeal, a successful application for a ‘stay’ of any scheduled same-sex marriage/wedding until the conclusion of the appeals hearing was also granted.


During last month’s three day hearing of the CI Government’s appeal, attorneys for the government argued that the chief justice exceeded the scope of his powers of modification under Section 5(1) of the order which brought the Constitution into effect.


In the Chief Justice’s initial ruling, he opined that failure to provide legal recognition of same-sex relationships violated the right to a private and family life, the right to freedom of conscience, the right to freedom from discrimination, and numerous other rights under the Cayman Islands Constitution.


He also accepted the couple’s position that the government’s failure to amend the law to bring it in line with the Bill of Rights meant that it was the court’s duty to modify the law.


During the recent proceedings, the couple’s attorney Jonathan Cooper said, “Marriage is a fundamental human right,” going on to tell Reuters and international press that, “It feels highly inappropriate to force (the couple) through a further appeal process, when the chief justice in the case in the high court was clear that they were entitled to marry.”


Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin has not commented on the appeals process publicly.


He has been on record previously, stating the islands’ constitution - which respects the right “to marry a person of the opposite sex” - was designed to reassure Christians that “marriage would retain its traditional definition as the union between a man and a woman”.


Currently there are no countries in the Caribbean where same-sex marriage or civil unions are allowed, according to global LGBT+ rights groups.


Though some overseas territories of the United States and the Netherlands - both countries where gay marriage is allowed - do allow it.


Legalized in Bermuda in 2017, same-sex marriage was later banned in parliament. That court battle is ongoing and the appeal by Bermuda’s government will be heard in London’s Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.


The cases in Cayman and Bermuda could have far reaching implications for Britain’s other Caribbean territories, and no doubt, Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Montserrat, and Turks and Caicos Islands will be watching closely.


A decision is expected in the matter of Chantel Day and Vickie Bodden is expected in October of this year.

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