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Court Blocks Same-Sex Marriage in Bermuda and Cayman Islands

Bermuda Pride

Advocates say the court rulings have only reasserted "the oppressive political environment of yesteryear."


LGBTQ+ rights advocates in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda were dealt a blow Monday after a top appeals court in London sided with Bermuda's and the Cayman Islands' governments over blocking same-sex marriage.

The U.K.'s Privy Council is the final court of appeals for several Caribbean islands that are British territories, according to the Associated Press. It sided not only with Bermuda's government in making same-sex marriage illegal for a third time, but also found that queer people don't have a right to same-sex marriage based on the Cayman Islands' constitution.

Activists had hoped that a favorable ruling would assist in creating a more LGBTQ-friendly sentiment in the region, which is known for its traditional stances on same-sex marriage. As the AP notes, colonial-era antisodomy laws are still in the law books.

"It's taken us some time to get here. ... We've had to jump over a few hurdles. It would definitely act as a beacon of hope for the entire region," Billie Bryan, founder and president of Colors Cayman, a nonprofit advocacy group for LGBTQ+ rights, told the news agency.

"The Privy Council has done nothing more, by its decision, than reassert the oppressive political environment of yesteryear," Bryan said.

The council wrote in its ruling in the case of Bermuda that the history of marriage is "one of the stigmatization, denigration, and victimization of gay people, and that the restriction of marriage to opposite-sex couples may create among gay people a sense of exclusion and stigma."

But, it added: "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."

One of the five judges dissented, the AP reports.

"Our work will go on. #OutBermuda continues to advocate for equality, justice and dignity for all #LGBTQ+ Bermudians. We will do so with gratitude to all the advocates and allies who stood by us," wrote local LGBTQ+ rights group Out Bermuda on Twitter.

Judges ruled unanimously in the Cayman Islands' case. "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," the judges stated.

The case in the Cayman Islands came about after the government denied two women a marriage license in 2018. The couple sued and in 2019 the Cayman Grand Court ruled in favor of them. However, that decision was overturned since the Cayman Constitution bans same-sex marriage.

The AP reports that the government was required to create a legal partnership between the two women that was equal to marriage. That never happened, according to activists, which spurred them to seek a decision from the Privy Council.

"I'm in shock," Leonardo Raznovich, a local activist in the Cayman Islands, told the AP. He said he would fight the Privy Council's ruling. "The decision is an affront to human dignity."

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