Cayman Islands Chief Justice rules same-sex marriage is legal

Anthony Smellie

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands – Chief Justice Anthony Smellie, in a landmark judgement on Friday, ruled that the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman was unconstitutional and violated multiple rights.

He ordered that the marriage law be changed to state that “marriage” means “the union between two people as one another’s spouses.”

His ruling followed a petition by Caymanian Chantelle Day and her partner Vickie Bodden Bush who had last year applied to get married but were turned down.

Attorney Ben Tonner, who represented the couple, said that his clients were “delighted that their relationship has been recognised at long last.

“The Chief Justice’s decision demonstrates in unequivocal terms that the rule of law and the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom are alive and well in the Cayman Islands,” he added.

At least 80 people were present in the court when the ruling was handed down and attorney Jonathan Cooper, one of a team of British barristers who represented the women, said the ruling had widespread implications, not just for LGBT+ rights in other overseas territories, especially in the Caribbean, but also in Britain.

Friday’s ruling means of the 20 jurisdictions over which the UK has a legal relationship, 15 now permit same-sex marriage.

Day welcomed the court ruling telling reporters she thought it deeply wrong that in 2019 she and Bodden had been forced to fight for the right to marry in court. She said they had tried to persuade the island to change its law without going to court.

“We did not want to put ourselves through this,” she said, adding “it shows that love wins and I am really happy that the right result was received today.”

Attorney General Samuel Bulgin Bulgin, who described the ruling as “very interesting” said “understandably, the government will have to take some time to consider it and think about how to move forward.”