British government urged to stop Cayman Islands ‘unacceptable’ criminalisation of same-sex marriage

Photo of couple Chantelle Day and Vickie Bodden Bush who are fighting for the right to get married in the Cayman Islands.

The lesbian couple who headed the campaign for equal marriage in the Cayman Islands have said it is “unacceptable” that the UK has not intervened after the ruling was reversed.

Chantelle Day and her partner Vickie Bodden Bush applied for the right to be married in the Cayman Islands, a British territory, but had their application rejected because they are a same-sex couple.

They then crowdfunded to fight the decision and, on March 29, the chief justice accepted their arguments, modifying the marriage law with immediate effect to allow same-sex marriage.

However on Thursday, November 7, the Cayman Islands government won an appeal to overturn the legalisation of same-sex marriage.

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”.

It is unclear how or if this will be implemented and, according to the Cayman News Service, McLaughlin said in a vague statement: “The government will carefully consider the full judgment to determine how best to proceed.”

Day, a Caymanian lawyer, told Reuters: “It’s unacceptable that the UK have allowed us to be in this position.

“The UK government isn’t willing to act and is willing to allow a continuing breach of human rights. They’re ultimately to blame because they have the power and they refuse to do anything.”

As a British Overseas Territory (BOT), the head of state in the Cayman Islands in Queen Elizabeth II, who is represented by a governor acting as the de facto head of state, but the territory is self-governing.

The governor, and by extension the queen, is responsible for appointing the premier, currently Alden McLaughlin, who is the leader of the territory’s government.

Although the UK does not usually involve itself in the legal and court systems of the Cayman Islands, it is technically possible to impose direct rule in extreme circumstances.

According to Reuters, a spokesperson for the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: “We believe that all love is equal, which is why the UK government changed our legislation to allow same-sex marriage.

“We hope that the Cayman Islands legislative assembly will act swiftly and take a decisive lead on this issue to ensure same sex couples are granted equal rights.”

The spokesperson said they would not comment on potential UK intervention, citing the imminent general election.