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Cayman lawyer claims SSM ruling buoys fight

Seeing reverse colonialism: Leonardo Raznovich

A lawyer in the Cayman Islands said a Privy Council ruling in favour of same-sex marriage in Bermuda would help the fight for marriage equality in the Caribbean territory.

Leonardo Raznovich, a barrister, added that he would not be surprised if the Privy Council refused to hear Bermuda’s appeal in light of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s push towards equal rights to marriage in the Overseas Territories.

He said: “I am struggling to see why the Privy Council would step in, other than for stating that it agrees with the local court in Bermuda, in which case, of course, it would have a positive impact in the Cayman Islands.”

Dr Raznovich added: “In this particular case, the local judiciary unanimously held that equal marriage is required and paradoxically the local executive wants the imperial court to step in and reverse what the local court unanimously has done.

“I have not seen in my whole life a worst case of reverse colonialism.”

Dr Raznovich added the legal arguments for same-sex marriage in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands were different due to differences in their constitutions.

He said the Cayman Islands’ constitution was more modern and based on the European Convention of Human Rights, while Bermuda’s constitution is a “first generation” text.

Dr Raznovich said: “It may be the case that the Privy Council takes this opportunity to modernise the case law that deals with constitutional constructions in situations such as the text in Bermuda.”

The Bermuda Government asked the Privy Council to hear an appeal on an island Court of Appeal ruling that rejected clauses in the Domestic Partnership Act designed to block same-sex marriages in Bermuda.

The Privy Council has not yet said if it will hear the Bermudian case. The Cayman Islands have had a similar dispute between the legislature and the judiciary on same-sex marriage.

Cayman Chief Justice Anthony Smellie found in favour of same-sex marriage at the end of last month in the case of Chantelle Day and Vickie Bodden Bush, a same-sex couple who were rejected permission to wed last year.

The ruling was celebrated by marriage equality campaigners, but the Cayman Islands Government has launched an appeal against the ruling.

The effect of the ruling was formally stayed by the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal on Wednesday.

Alden McLaughlin, the Premier of the Caymans, said last week that Mr Justice Smellie may have exceeded his powers under the Caymans constitution.

He added: “If left unchallenged, the implications for the Cayman Islands’ constitution are significant and potentially far-reaching and go well beyond the rights of same-sex couples.”

A spokesman for the Foreign Office said after Mr Justice Smellie’s judgment that the UK government was disappointed by the decision to appeal the ruling.

The spokesman added: “The court judgment permitting same-sex marriage in the Cayman Islands puts the territory among the most progressive societies in the region in terms of LGBT equality.

“The UK Government is committed to equal rights, including LGBT rights, and welcomes the judgment.

“We are therefore disappointed by the decision of the Cayman Islands Government to appeal.”

Jonathan Cooper, a barrister who advised the two women who brought the Caymans case, said the UK Government should have legalised same-sex marriage in the Caymans before the case came to court.

Mr Cooper said: “Chantelle and Vickie should not have been forced to litigate in order to have their relationship recognised in law. It’s a scandal that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office made them do this.”

Mr Cooper added: “The Foreign & Commonwealth Office could and should have insisted that all British Overseas Territories recognise LGBT relationships in law. Instead, they dragged Chantelle and Vickie through the courts.”

He said: “It’s brilliant what Chantelle and Vickie have achieved, but it’s also demeaning to have to compel your government to recognise your love.”