August 28, 2019 / 6:35 PM / 18 days ago

Appeal to stop gay marriage opens in Cayman Islands

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A lawyer representing a lesbian couple whose court victory legalized same-sex marriage in the Cayman Islands five months ago said a government appeal against the ruling, which opened on Wednesday, sought to deny the basic right to marry.

Chantelle Day, a Caymanian lawyer, and her partner Vickie Bodden Bush went to court last year after they were refused permission to marry in the islands, one of five British overseas territories in the Caribbean where gay marriage is illegal.

“Marriage is a fundamental human right,” said Jonathan Cooper, one of the couple’s lawyers with Doughty Street Chambers in London, at the start of the three-day hearing.

“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,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The Premier of the Cayman Islands, Alden McLaughlin, declined to comment, citing the ongoing proceedings.

In April, he said that 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”.

No country in the Caribbean allows same-sex marriage or civil unions, according to ILGA, a global LGBT+ rights group, although some overseas territories of the United States and the Netherlands - where gay marriage is allowed - do permit it.

Same-sex marriage was legalized in Bermuda - the most populous British overseas territory - in 2017, although parliament later banned it, leading to a protracted court battle which is ongoing.

An appeal by Bermuda’s government will be heard in London’s Judicial Committee of the Privy Council - the highest court for British Overseas Territories, which are self-governing jurisdictions with their own constitutions and parliaments.

Gay marriage supporters have said the two cases could set precedents for Britain’s four other Caribbean territories - Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Montserrat, and Turks and Caicos Islands - which do not allow same-sex marriage.

Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), which welcomed the Cayman Islands’ ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in March, declined to comment on the ongoing proceedings.

“The UK Government is committed to equal rights for LGBT people,” an FCO spokeswoman said in emailed comments.

“Policy on marriage law is an area of devolved responsibility, but we continue to engage with our Overseas Territories on this issue.”

Reporting by Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage; Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org

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