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Cayman joins Bermuda in SSM ruling

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Landmark cases: Rod Attride-Stirling(Photograph provided)

Bermudian precedents helped bring the legalisation of same-sex marriage in the Cayman Islands, according to local lawyers.

Rod Attride-Stirling, who was involved in several landmark marriage equality cases in Bermuda, said he assisted lawyers involved in the Cayman Islands case.

He said: “The Cayman court relied very heavily on the Bermuda court judgments.

“It is unquestionably the case that Bermuda has led the way on the development of a freedom of conscience right to marriage, which includes same-sex marriage.”

Mark Pettingill, another lawyer involved in the local cases, said he was thrilled to see Bermuda’s fight for same-sex marriage used to aid other jurisdictions.

Mr Pettingill said: “I’m very pleased that they made use of what happened in Bermuda.

“We have three judgments now so it’s no wonder that they are being used. All of them are very strong.”

Mr Pettingill said he was very happy to see the Cayman Islands “get on the human rights bandwagon” and he expects other jurisdictions to follow the same path. He added: “Hopefully, Cayman will just leave things where they are now and accept it.”

Bermudian Roderick Ferguson, an applicant in the case which overruled the Domestic Partnership Act, said he was excited to hear that his case was used to help open the door to same-sex marriage in the Cayman Islands.

He said: “I feel a deep sense of gratitude knowing that our case played a role in the Cayman Islands ruling.

“As the fight for the rights of LGBTQ people continues to unfold, it is gratifying to know that we have helped pave the way for further victories, just as those before us helped pave the way for ours.”

The Cayman case was launched by Chantelle Day and Vickie Bodden Bush, who applied to be married in the Cayman Islands last year only to be rejected on the grounds that they were a same-sex couple.

The couple argued that Ms Bush, a British national, was denied a spousal visa because they were refused the right to marry.

Meanwhile Ms Day, who jointly adopted a daughter with Ms Bush in the UK, could not be recognised as the child’s mother in Cayman.

In a judgment released on Friday, Cayman Chief Justice Anthony Smellie — who also sits on Bermuda’s Court of Appeal — found that their rights had been violated.

As such, Mr Justice Smellie ordered the Marriage Law be changed immediately to allow same-sex marriage.

Leonardo Raznovich, a Cayman barrister and same-sex advocate, said yesterday: “The judge found that the Marriage Law’s definition of marriage was unconstitutional because it breached the right to private life and family and freedom of conscience and was discriminatory.

“It did mentioned the Bermuda case in the summary that he read in court.”

Dr Raznovich said he did not know if the Cayman Government would appeal the decision, although he had faith that any appeal would be unsuccessful.

He said: “Whether the Attorney-General and/or Registrar will appeal will become a decision of the Premier.

“His government had ample opportunity to address this issue but have consistently failed to act. The court has now done the job that the Government was unable, or unwilling, to do.”

He added: “As a matter of law and as a matter of politics, any prospect of appeal is set to fail and to constitute a haemorrhaging of money that the Government should instead use for health, education or other areas that will benefit all Caymanians.”

Peter Laverack, a part of the legal team that represented the couple, said: “Chantelle and Vickie’s relationship finally has been recognised.

“For too long, they and their daughter were denied what loving couples and ordinary families take for granted.

“The Chief Justice’s judgment beautifully combines the common law and European Court case law, with a healthy dose of common sense.

“Equality means equality. Love is love.”

The judgment echoes similar decisions in Bermuda courts, which legalised same-sex marriage and struck down the Domestic Partnership Act, intended to ban same-sex marriage and replace it with domestic partnership.

In the latter case, Chief Justice Ian Kawaley ruled that the DPA infringed on the constitutional freedom of conscience.

The Government has filed for permission to appeal to London’s Privy Council, but that court has yet to accept or refuse the application.

Strong judgments: Mark Pettingill(Photograph by Akil Simmons)