UK makes rare intervention to give same-sex couples in Cayman Islands legal recognition after lawmakers blocked two attempts at equality
The UK has stepped in to legalise the recognition of same-sex partnerships in the Cayman Islands, after the British territory failed to pass the legislation last week.
In March 2019, same-sex marriage was legalised with immediate effect in the Cayman Islands following a lawsuit by a lesbian couple. However in November, the islands’ government won an appeal to overturn the legalisation.
The Court of Appeal ruled that although same-sex marriage will be re-criminalised, the territory should immediately offer unions which have a “legal status equivalent to marriage”. This has failed to materialise, with a Domestic Partnership Bill defeated in parliament on July 29.
On Wednesday (August 5) Cayman Islands governor Martyn Roper made a rare intervention, demanding that same-sex partnerships be legally recognised.
Roper is the British Overseas Territory’s de-facto head of state, representing Queen Elizabeth II. Though the islands are in practice self-governing and the UK does not usually involve itself in its legal and court systems, it is technically possible to impose direct rule in extreme circumstances.
According to Loop Cayman, Roper said: “Since arriving in October 2018, I have fully respected Cayman’s extensive responsibility for dealing with domestic matters.
“But I cannot simply stand aside when it comes to upholding the rule of law and complying with international obligations, which fall squarely within my responsibilities as governor.”
Roper said that the territory must comply with the Bill of Rights of the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), and that he was now referring the issue to Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and UK ministers.
“In seeking to find a way forward, I believe I have been consistent and true to my pledge when I arrived to serve all the people of these wonderful islands to the best of my ability.”
He added that, acting on instructions from the UK foreign secretary, the Domestic Partnership Bill would be published on August 10.
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“It was clear to me that the Bill would satisfy the legal requirement and at the same time maintain the current definition of marriage.”
There will be 21 days for consultation with the legislative assembly members and public, and Roper expects the new law will come into effect in September.
He added that the potential legalisation of same-sex marriage in the Cayman Islands was “currently before the Privy Council and it will reach a decision on the appeal early next year”.