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Same-sex couples urged to test Cayman Islands marriage law
Published on May 10, 2017 Email To Friend    Print Version

Dr Leonardo Raznovich

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands (CNS) -- A legal expert is urging same-sex Caymanian couples who want to get married to put the local legislation to the test as he believes there is no lawful prohibition to same-sex marriages in either the Constitution or the Marriage Law.

Dr Leo Raznovich, a former law school professor, said members of the LGBT community in Cayman should stand up for their rights and test the legislation because the language of the law doesn’t really ban gay marriage. He is also offering to help couples who are willing to give it a try. His suggestion comes in the wake of a landmark ruling in Bermuda that has paved the way for same-sex marriage there.

Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé, Greg DeRoche, took their case to the Supreme Court in Bermuda, arguing that the Human Rights Act took primacy and protected their right to marry, and the judge ruled in the couple’s favour.

Raznovich said local gay couples here need to bring the discrimination they face to the attention of the courts in Cayman because Section 14 of the Constitution of the Cayman Islands does not prohibit same-sex marriage. It simply tells the government that it must “respect the right of every unmarried man and woman of marriageable age as determined by law to freely to marry a person of the opposite sex and found a family”, according to the legal expert who won his own legal case to remain in Cayman as a dependent of his spouse.

“The Marriage Law does not prohibit same-sex marriage either,” he told CNS. “It simply defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Because this is not a prohibition either, there is no case of incompatibility but a case of interpretation.”

He explained that the Cayman Islands constitution prohibits discrimination on any grounds, including sexual orientation, and the lack of express prohibition in the constitution and local legislation to same-sex marriage triggers sections 24 and 25 of the constitution. These refer to duty of the authority not to act against the law and to read any law that is ambiguous in a manner that is compatible with the Bill of Rights.

This all means that local courts should also find that preventing the marriage of a consenting same-sex couple of legal age that meets all of the usual criteria is discriminatory and someone needs to test the legislation in court.

“It is time for gay and lesbian Caymanian couples to stand for their rights to marry in the jurisdiction,” he said, as he issued an invitation to contact him about building a case. “The constitution of the Cayman Islands is fully on their side. Anybody wanting to challenge the legislation in court, please get in touch because I know people in the community who would be willing to financially support such a course of action.”

With just over two weeks until general elections in the Cayman Islands, what public open discussion there has been on the campaign trail about gay rights or marriage has been largely confined to those who are vehemently opposed and others who believe the issue was returned to the bottom of the government agenda after the failed referendum motion earlier this year.

Raznovich has pointed out, however, that any attempts by a future government to directly articulate or spell out a prohibition against same-sex unions in the law would also breach the constitution’s Bill of Rights.

“If next government tries to change the local legislation so that it prohibits same-sex marriage, in order to stop the effect of sections 24 and 25 of the constitution to apply without bringing about civil unions as an alternative to marriage for same-sex couples, the governor has the constitutional duty to veto that legislation because it would be contrary to the constitution of the Cayman Islands and in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights,” he added.

Given the situation in Bermuda and what he believes is the combined effect of the law and constitution in Cayman, Raznovich said the LGBT community should seize the opportunity now to challenge the discrimination they face.

Republished with permission of Cayman News Service
Reads: 6501

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