Gayman Cayman Islands has officially legalised same-sex marriage over night after a judge ruled prohibitions on such relationships was unconstitutional.
The historic decision marked a personal victory for the island, it also marked the end of a tough legal battle for Chantelle Day and Vickie Bodden, who had just a few months ago applied to get married on the stunning Cayman islands but were unfortunately turned away.
LGBTQI activists say Friday’s ruling could also have a ‘domino affect’ for the gay rights of other LGBTQI community members in their neighbouring British territories, some still having there own local laws and legal systems.
Eighty community members were present in the court of George Town, Grand Cayman, the largest of the three islands making up the territory, to wait in silence as we did in Australia for the ‘Yes Vote’ and hear the final ruling by chief justice Anthony Smellie.
Ms Day, a lawyer and activist fighter, said “We’re feeling pretty good, pretty relieved and that we just finally got the judgment.”
Jonathan Cooper, one of the activists and a British barrister who represented the lesbian couple who were denied their dream LGBTQI wedding ceremony, said the ruling had widespread implications not just for the LGBTQI community but for other overseas territories, especially in the Caribbean and the United Kingdom.
Mr Cooper said it was outrageous that the couple had been forced to fight a legal battle with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which had opposed the same-sex couple’s application to marry.
The Women were forced to fight a civil case in the Cayman Islands, where Ms Day, who is a Caymanian, was born. Ms Bodden, a British citizen since 2010, travelled to the islands from the UK on a work permit, which is required for British citizens. It was there they met their soul mates.
The governor of the Cayman Islands is appointed by the FCO and two in succession opposed proposals to change the law. The islands current governor, Martin Roper, had declined to comment regarding the current government’s decision to oppose same-sex marriage, last year Mr Roper told Cayman Islands local media –
“My view is that everybody is equal and everyone should have the same rights.”
“Chantelle and Vickie should not have been forced to litigate in order to have their relationship recognised in law,” said Mr Cooper. “It’s a scandal that the FCO made them go through this. When will this government put its money where its mouth is by improving LGBTQI equality across the entire board?”
In the Judges ruling, Mr Smellie ordered that section 2 of the Marriage Law be changed to state that “marriage” means “the union between two people as each others spouses”.
According to the editor at Cayman Compass he added:
“This court is bound not to allow the violation of the petitioners’ rights to continue without redress. The constitution, in its mandatory requirement that the law be brought into conformity, must prevail. The petitioners and their daughter are entitled to the indignities to which they have been subjected being put to an immediate end by the court.”
This official same-sex marriage ruling means 20 jurisdictions over which the UK has a legal relationship, 15 now permit same-sex marriage. Northern Ireland permits civil partnerships, while four overseas territories in the Caribbean – British Virgin Islands, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos Islands and Anguilla – permit neither marriage or civil partnership. Bermuda supreme court legalised same-sex marriage last year.
Barrister Peter Laverack, another member of the legal team, was in Grand Cayman on Friday for the ruling.
“Chantelle’s and Vickie’s relationship finally has now been recognised. For too long they and their daughter were denied what loving couples and ordinary families take for granted,” he said.
Ms Day is happy and the loved up couple were celebrating their victory with friends and family, but they have not yet set a date for their soon to be beach wedding.