September 29, 2020

Cayman: Governor’s Statement & publication of Domestic Partnership Bil – Cayman now compliant with Cayman Court of Appeal ruling

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Cayman Governor Martyn Roper

From The Cayman Islands Governor’s office

His Excellency The Governor Mr Martyn Roper said: “The publishing of the Domestic Partnership Bill today is a welcome step on the path to ensuring that the rights of everyone in the territory are upheld and that Cayman law is compliant with the recent ruling of the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal.

“During the COVID crisis I have been struck by how the community has pulled together to look after each other.  There have been so many acts of kindness and tolerance shown to everyone across our communities – Caymanians and residents, but also foreign visitors and workers. The Premier set the tone early on with his clear statement that the government would look after everyone on the islands.  Whether it be providing food, shelter or medical assistance, including to ships in distress or helping foreign workers stranded in Cayman or other neighbouring states to return home, we can be proud of how our community has acted in Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. I have received many expressions of thanks from foreign governments for our actions.  

“Our constitution recognises our Christian values, the importance of the rule of law and our respect for human dignity, equality and freedom.  These values apply to us all and I hope that we all continue to show a spirit of tolerance and compassion to all members of our society.  In the Covid crisis, we have learnt more about what really matters. The wonderful value of human interactions that we lost during the lockdown. At a time when the Black Lives Matters campaign is rightly forcing all of us to look carefully at our own behaviours, I urge everyone to treat each other with renewed courtesy, dignity and respect at all times.”  

Publication of Domestic Partnership Bill, 2020

Following the constitutional challenge by Ms. Chantelle Day and Ms. Vicki Bodden Bush seeking the right to enter into same-sex marriage, or at the minimum, a declaration that provision should be made for them to enter into a civil partnership and, following an initial ruling from the Grand Court to the effect that the Bill of Rights gave them the right to marry, the matter was appealed by the Government to the Court of Appeal. On 7th November 2019, the Court of Appeal delivered its ruling. The Court ruled that as the law currently stands marriage in the Cayman Islands can only be between couples of opposite-sex.

However, although the Court of Appeal found against Chantelle Day and Vicki Bodden Bush, the court went on to make a very unequivocal and strongly worded declaration to the effect that Day and Bodden Bush are entitled, expeditiously, to legal protection in the Cayman Islands, which is functionally equivalent to marriage.

The court observed, among other things, that it was apparent for several years that there is an obligation to provide such a framework and that the failure to do so was “woeful”. The court observed that this failure of the Legislative Assembly is a continuing violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Further, the Court made the point that the Executive and the Legislature are expected to obey the law and to respect decisions of the Court. It went on to state that it would be wholly unacceptable for this declaration by the court to be ignored whether or not there is an appeal to the Privy Council.

Accordingly, in keeping with the declaration of the Court of Appeal, the Government has agreed to have the Domestic Partnership Bill, 2020 considered by Legislative Assembly following a 30 day public consultation period.

Comments on the Bill by members of the public may be forwarded to the Legislative Drafting Department at [email protected] or c/o the Portfolio of Legal Affairs, 4th floor, Government Administration Building.

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