UK court blocks same-sex marriage in Cayman Islands and Bermuda

Both nations have previously legalised same-sex marriage, only for the legislation to be overturned months later.

A same-sex couple's hands at a wedding as the Cayman Islands and Bermuda ban the practice.
Image: Unsplash



On Monday, March 14, a UK court ruled against marriage equality for the Cayman Islands and Bermuda. The United Kingdom’s Privy Council serves as the final court of appeals for multiple islands in the Caribbean, with members of the two aforementioned nations using it as a last resort in legal battles surrounding same-sex marriage.

Same-sex marriage was legalised with immediate effect in the Cayman Islands in March 2019, following a legal battle brought by lesbian couple Chantelle Day and Vickie Bodden Bush. The nation’s government appealed the decision, and eight months later emerged from court successful, therefore criminalising same-sex marriage.

The couple’s legal team proceeded to bring the case to the UK Privy Council, where the judges ruled unanimously in favour of the Cayman Islands Government. They declared that because the country’s constitution defines marriage as between a man and a woman, the ban on same-sex marriage can remain.

In reference to the case, the judges wrote that “the effect of the board’s interpretation is that this is a matter of choice for the legislative assembly rather than a right laid down in the constitution.”

Similarly, Bermuda legalised same-sex marriage in May 2017, only to have it criminalised, and decriminalised once again in 2018. The Government took their case to the Privy Council in an attempt to make marriage equality illegal for the third time, with only one of five judges dissenting.

Although the court officials acknowledged how the history of marriage contributes to the “stigmatisation, denigration and victimisation of gay people, and that the restriction of marriage to opposite-sex couples may create among gay people a sense of exclusion and stigma,” they concluded that “international instruments and other countries’ constitutions cannot be used to read into [Bermuda’s constitution] a right to the legal recognition of same-sex marriage.”

Speaking after the Cayman Islands and Bermuda rulings, Leonardo Raznovich, a lawyer on Chantelle Day and Vickie Bodden Bush’s legal team said, “I am in shock […] the decision is an affront to human dignity.”

He also told the Associated Press that he plans to fight the decision.

Billie Bryan of the LGBTQ+ advocacy group Colours Cayman also responded to the news, stating: “The Privy Council has done nothing more, by its decision, than reassert the oppressive political environment of yesteryear.”

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