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Brace for more fights on gay marriage, warns Cayman chief justice

Published:Wednesday | October 23, 2019 | 12:08 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer


Countries that continue to oppose the sexual and other rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community could be called on to justify their position on same-sex marriage over time, says Anthony Smellie, chief justice of the Cayman Islands.

“Every society will have to go through a process in the rationalisation of these rights (same-sex marriage) for itself,” Smellie told The Gleaner. “I think that the abiding principle must be of humanity and respect for human dignity ... . We are all human beings.”

In Jamaican law, marriage is defined as a union between a man and a woman.

Smellie, a Cornwall College past student, came to international attention earlier this year when he ruled that same-sex marriage could legally take place in the British overseas territory. In that appeal court matter, the Jamaica-born chief justice ordered that Section Two of the Marriage Law be changed to state that ‘marriage’ means ‘the union between two people as one another’s spouses’.

“My own views on the subject matter are really quite irrelevant,” he said when pressed for a comment on the current stand-off between gay-rights group Montego Bay Pride and Mayor Homer Davis, chairman of the St James Municipal Corporation, over the use of the Montego Bay Cultural Centre.

“I did write a judgment [on same-sex marriage], which itself is an appeal, so I shouldn’t comment on that, either,” he said.

Respect court judgments

“People will have to respect the judgments of the court, and there is an appeal process, I imagine, and ultimately, when the case is finally dealt with on appeal, that will become the decision that everybody will have to respect,” he said.

In September, The Gleaner reported that Davis, during a meeting of the St James Municipal Corporation, declared that he would revoke permission for the gay-rights lobby to use the facility, stating that the move was necessary to preserve the “sacredness” of the space.

The Court of Appeal overturned an interim order in favour of the group last week, arguing that it had not followed procedure in booking the venue.

The matter is now the subject of a judicial review.