February 10, 2019
(CMR) Sitting in court listening to the legal arguments in the same-sex marriage challenge it was difficult to not acknowledge the fact that there were real persons whose lives would be significantly impacted one way or the other.
Between case citations and legal arguments on the interpretation of the constitution and its preamble; the weight of this case for me was heavy and then I considered how much of a toll it must be taking on the parties involved.
Few persons can really say that they understand challenging the system and fighting for basic human rights. Even fewer can say they have sat in a daunting grand courtroom as a petitioner seeking to have a law changed. A change that would be one for the record books and precedent setting across the Caribbean. This is no doubt one of the most significant equality challenges in the history of the Cayman Islands.
I was surprised to see so few persons attend; particularly those against the case. The bulk of the support in court was in favor of the parties challenging the government. Representatives from the Minister’s Association showed up late and appeared to only number three; at the most four. In fact, they attempted to have some documents submitted at the beginning of the hearing and the judge; guided by the court rules could not allow it. These same legal rules will ultimately guide his decision and the outcome of this case.
People are very divided and decided on this issue. You are either pro-same sex marriage or against it. The reasons on both sides of the coin are a mixed bag of emotion and maintaining the status quo. I have personally seen persons who would ordinarily be against it have a change of heart when the matter hits close to home with a love one – often a child. Otherwise loving Caymanian Christian ladies who would have stood in protest on this topic will quietely tell me, “my child is gay and cannot live in Cayman – I will not speak out against this topic. Love concurs all”.
And so it goes with the pendulum of support.
Most persons who are against it have been taught that homosexuality is wrong and they continue to permeate that line of thinking. Somehow, they believe it that if we allow same sex unions you will have more gay people in our community. All the while admitting that we all have gay family, friends, siblings, cousins etc. Many hiding in the halls of the same churches looking to castigate them.
The local church has showed immense resolve in their position and have fought hard. They have created public campaigns about the necessity to stand up against the gay community and fight against any form of legal acknowledgement. Many argue that ironically, they have been silent on many social ills that face our community.
This topic divides many.
The legal arguments got heavier by the minute and my mind absorbed what Edward Fitzgerald QC had to say for the petitioners. These arguments made logical and legal sense to me; someone with an above average degree of legal knowledge and understanding.
The wider interpretation of the preamble which speaks of our Christian heritage was meant to include our history and culture; but not exclude others from living their lives how they see fit. The arguments that homosexuals have limited existing rights in this country that will impact their daily lives in a real way.
Everything from pension rights, succession and inheritance rights, limitations with insurance coverage for partners and children and immigration complications. These are the struggles of people in same sex relationships in the Cayman Islands. Struggles that most of us never have to give a second thought to.
I was reminded, this case isn’t about maintain the religious status quo. It is about what the constitution states and whether or not intended to exclude all others by plainly stating that the government will respect of our Christian heritage.
The point was argued clearly: Acknowledging that the government SHALL do something does not equate to the government being able to deny or take away other rights. Further, had the drafters of the constitution meant to truly exclude same sex marriages they would have utilized strong irrefutable language to convey the point. The point was also made that if such language was used intending to exclude same sex marriage for eternity it would have likely not been adopted.
I looked around the courtroom and saw the support that this couple had. Parents, friends and well-wishers – once again reminding me – these are people not just “petitioners.” Chanetelle and Vickie are two women trying to live their lives without the complexities mentioned above. One is a Caymanian, born and bred. In the past many have said of others trying to challenge the system “they have no right to do so because they are not one of us”. But here is one of us – finally standing firm and saying why is she not allowed equal footing as everyone else. Why is she being discriminated against?
One of us; who when she approached Premier Alden McLaughlin in a formal letter received no acknowledgement at all from him. In fact, it was the governor who engaged in dialogue.
No one every wants to carry out the task of challenging the government. It’s expensive, stressful and places you in the uncomfortable limelight.
Here we have a couple, parents and professionals making the sacrifice to fight for something they truly believe is right.
The judge will have the final say on the matter of law; but the sacrifice that two real people have made to challenge the system shouldn’t be lost on any of us regardless of where you stand on this issue. Anyone who has ever stood against the tide …. understands.