GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands, Monday April 1, 2019 – The Cayman Islands government is contemplating its
next move after the Chief Justice Anthony Smellie handed down a ruling that
made same-sex marriage legal in the British Overseas Territory.
In his judgment on a petition filed by Caymanian
Chantelle Day and her partner Vickie Bodden Bush after they were refused an
application to wed in April 2018, Smellie ordered a rewrite of the Cayman
Islands’ Marriage Law, saying that preventing same-sex couples from accessing
marriage and the suite of rights that come with it was a clear violation of
freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution, including the right to a private and
family life, the right to freedom of conscience, and the right to freedom from
“By its ongoing refusal to recognize
and respect these rights of the petitioners, the state has been and remains in
violation of their rights,” he said.
He therefore ordered that the clause in
the law that specifies marriage is reserved for heterosexual couples should be amended
to state that: “‘Marriage means the union between two people as one another’s
That amendment comes into effect
immediately and does not require ratification by the Legislative Assembly or
the governor, as Smellie used his powers under the Constitution to rewrite the
While the couple, who have an adopted
daughter, were ecstatic about what they called the “right result”, with Day
saying that it showed that “love wins”, Attorney General Samuel Bulgin
described the Chief Justice’s ruling as “very interesting”.
“The government will have to take
some time to consider it and think about how to move forward,” he told the media
as he exited the court.
In his ruling, the Chief Justice dismissed government’s argument
that Section 14 (1) of the Constitution, which enshrines the right to marry for
opposite sex couples, can be interpreted as a blanket ban on marriage for
And he said an amendment to the Marriage Law in 2008, to specifically
define marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman, had imposed
“indignity, inequality of treatment and inequality of legal status upon
The Chief Justice was the court’s duty to intervene to modify
laws that did not comply with the Constitution, particularly in cases where the
state had failed to act.
“The petitioners and their daughter are entitled to the indignities to which they have been subjected being put to an immediate end by the court,” he said, adding that the decision did not threaten traditional marriage.