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Marriage Equality Overturned in Cayman Islands

Vickie Bodden Bush and Chantelle Day

An appeals court in the Cayman Islands has overturned a ruling that legalized same-sex marriage, while saying the Caribbean nation’s government should establish some equivalent of marriage for same-sex couples.

The Cayman Islands Court of Appeal handed down its ruling Thursday, voiding Chief Justice Anthony Smellie’s March decision that ordered the government to amend its marriage law to define marriage as the union of two people, not of a man and a woman, Cayman Compass reports. Both judgments came in a case brought by Chantelle Day and Vickie Bodden Bush, a female couple who said the law was discriminatory and that they wished to marry.

The appeals court said Smellie relied too much on decisions from other countries that established marriage equality, and that the European Court of Human Rights does not see marriage as a human right. The island nation is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom, and the framers of its constitution were guided by ECHR precedents.

But while not recognizing a right to marriage for same-sex couples, the appeals court said the government should establish civil partnerships or some other marriage equivalent for them. “Chantelle Day and Vickie Bodden Bush are entitled, expeditiously, to legal protection in the Cayman Islands, which is functionally equivalent to marriage,” the judges wrote.

“It would be wholly unacceptable for this declaration to be ignored,” the court continued. “Whether or not there is an appeal to the Privy Council in respect of same-sex marriage, there can be no justification for further delay or prevarication.” If the Cayman Islands government does not act, the U.K. should intervene, the judges added.

LGBTQ activists were not happy with the idea of a separate institution for same-sex couples. “It is a sad day for Caymanians because their constitution has not been properly upheld by their own courts, and for this reason a sad day for the jurisdiction and its future,” attorney and activist Leonardo Raznovich said in a prepared statement, according to Cayman Compass.

The couple at the center of the case had no immediate comment. “The Petitioners are mindful that section 26(3) of the Bill of Rights gives them the right to appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council on the marriage issue and a further press release will follow in due course once the Petitioners have had an opportunity to consider the judgment and take legal advice,” their attorney, Ben Tonner, told Cayman Compass.

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