April 1, 2019 / 8:46 PM / 21 days ago

After court battle, Cayman Islands legalizes same-sex marriage

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Same-sex marriage has become legal in the Cayman Islands following a landmark court case brought by a lesbian couple which their lawyers said on Monday could have implications in the wider Caribbean region and beyond.

Chantelle Day, 32, a Caymanian lawyer, and her partner Vickie Bodden Bush, 44, a nurse, went to court after they were refused permission to marry last year.

Chief Justice Anthony Smellie ruled on Friday that preventing same-sex marriage was a violation of the constitution and ordered changes to the law that restricted marriage to heterosexual couples.

    The ruling could have consequences for four other Caribbean British Overseas Territories which do not permit same-sex marriage or civil partnerships - Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, Montserrat, and Turks and Caicos Islands, the couple’s legal team said.

Lawyers also questioned whether Northern Ireland could continue to deny same-sex marriage in light of the judgment.

Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) welcomed the ruling, which comes after Bermuda legalized same-sex marriage last year.

But the FCO said it did not plan to impose same-sex marriage laws on other British Overseas Territories, which are self-governing jurisdictions with their own democratically elected representatives.

Jonathan Cooper, a British barrister on the couple’s legal team, said in a statement that the FCO should insist all overseas territories recognize LGBT relationships in law.

“When will this government put its money where its mouth is and mainstream LGBT equality across the board?” he said.

“It’s brilliant what Chantelle and Vickie have achieved, but it’s also demeaning to have to compel your government to recognize your love.”

Peter Laverack, another of the women’s lawyers, said the couple were “absolutely delighted”.

“These changes are not an academic exercise. They had serious problems due to not being able to marry,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Bodden Bush, who has British nationality, was denied a spousal visa, and Day was not recognized as the mother of their daughter whom they jointly adopted in England.  

The couple said last year that they wanted “to set an example for all of the UK’s overseas territories, so that no more British citizens need to go to court to marry the person they love”.

Reporting by Emma Batha @emmabatha; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. 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 news.trust.org

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