(CMR) In light of the recent Privy Council ruling on same-sex marriage in the Cayman Islands, Premier Wayne Panton has urged persons to discuss the issue respectfully regardless of their views.
“No matter your view on the issue of same-sex marriage, I ask that you discuss your views respectfully and with due consideration to the feelings and emotions of others,” Mr. Panton said in a release on Wednesday.
“The issue of same-sex marriage is an emotive one in our Islands, with strong views held by those in support of and those against same sex marriages. As we process the Privy Council’s ruling, we must remember to conduct ourselves with respect and civility,” he added.
He commended those who made arguments on both sides and expressed appreciation for the work of the Privy Council.
“The Privy Council is the highest court of appeal for the United Kingdom's Overseas Territories and this decision makes it clear now that the Constitution (inclusive of the Bill of Rights) of the Cayman Islands does not confer a right to same-sex marriage. Specifically, it does confer a right for ‘every unmarried man and woman of marriageable age freely to marry a person of the opposite sex and found a family,” Mr. Panton said.
He further stated that this decision also makes it clear that the Privy Council agrees with the Court of Appeal that the interpretation of the Bill of Rights as reflected in their ruling “does not prevent Parliament [in the Cayman Islands] from introducing legislation to recognize same-sex marriage.”
While same-sex marriage is illegal, Mr. Panton pointed out that under the Civil Partnership Law, both same-sex and opposite couples may be united in a civil partnership, which affords the functional equivalence of marriage.
“Unfortunately, the enactment of this Act is being challenged by way of a judicial review. Should that succeed, Government will be in breach of its obligations to provide a mechanism for a union with functional equivalence to marriage and will be required to respond. This is clear from the decision of the Court of Appeal in 2019,” he said.
Mr. Panton stated that “while there are those Caymanians who believe in the traditional definition of marriage, I recognize that times are changing. Many of the younger generations of Caymanians have different views on the issue of marriage, and this may become an issue of social justice in time to come.”
He pointed out that as Premier, he had an obligation under the law to ensure that all people, especially any minority group, are treated fairly and without discrimination.
“The constitution provides clear guidance on the matter of non-discrimination, and the Civil Partnerships Law Act provides for legal recognition of same-sex unions,” he said.