Landmark ruling legally recognises same-sex marriage in a British Overseas Territory – a major victory for equal rights and common sense

Today, judgment has been handed down in Day and Bodden Bush v the Governor, in which a lesbian couple, who share a daughter, were forced to the courts so that they could marry in the Cayman Islands and stay together as a family – despite being British citizens and Cayman being a British Overseas Territory.

 Edward Fitzgerald QC of Doughty Chambers and Peter Laverack of 5 Essex Court, with local silk Ben Tonner QC of McGrath Tonner, successfully represented the petitioners (Chantelle Day and Vickie Bodden Bush) in the first case of its kind in the Caribbean. The Chief Justice modified the Marriage Law with immediate effect to allow same-sex marriage.  He found that the rights to a private and family life, free conscience and equality had been violated, and that the dignity of the petitioners would only be restored by allowing them to marry.

 The judgment brings into sharp focus the lack of same-sex marriage in both Northern Ireland and four other Caribbean British Overseas Territories (BOTs), which lack civil partnership too.  It also shines a spotlight on how Theresa May’s Government needs to do more to support its commitment to LGBT+ rights. The lack of civil partnership in these BOTs should be of particular concern to the UK government having placed it in breach of its international obligations under the European Convention, at a time when the UK asks to be taken seriously on the international stage. The UK has the power to mandate equal rights in its territories and force them to comply with the standards they set.

 The couple applied for the right to be married last year, which was promptly rejected by the Cayman Islands on the grounds that they are a same-sex couple. The Cayman Islands knowingly and unconcernedly failed to act to protect Day, Bodden Bush and their daughter. Bodden Bush, who is not Caymanian, was denied a spousal visa and Day was not recognised as mother to their daughter who they jointly adopted in England.  The only way forward for same-sex couples to enjoy the same rights and legal protections as heterosexual couples was for them to take on the Cayman Islands government, which will have a hugely positive effect on the LGBT+ community worldwide.

 Peter Laverack, a barrister at 5 Essex Court, acting on behalf of the petitioners, saidChantelle’s  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.”

 Jonathan Cooper, barrister at Doughty Street, who has advised the petitioners throughout, says: “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 FCO made them do this. When will this Government put its money where its mouth is and mainstream LGBT equality across the board? The FCO could and should have insisted that all British Overseas Territories recognise LGBT relationships in law. Instead, they dragged Chantelle and Vickie through the courts. It’s brilliant what Chantelle and Vickie have achieved, but it’s also demeaning to have to compel your Government to recognise your love.”  

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