London ruling on same-sex marriage could have international impact

Imminent rulings by the ancient Privy Council court in London will help determine whether marriages of same-sex couples will be permitted in Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, and more than a dozen other former and current British colonies.

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Royal Arms as used by the Privy Council

The Privy Council, which was established in the mid-19th Century, is the court of final appeal for both Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.

It is hearing an appeal today and tomorrow on marriage equality in Bermuda, where the country’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of allowing same-sex couples to marry despite a 2018 law that allowed them only to enter into civil unions.  In defense of the 2018 law, Bermuda’s attorney general appealed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

A related case from the Cayman Islands is scheduled for a hearing before the Privy Council on Feb. 23. It will determine whether a lesbian couple  will succeed in their challenge to a Cayman Islands law defining marriage as “the union between a man and a woman as husband and wife”.

Rulings in both cases are expected later this year.

Privy Council rulings can be considered as establishing a precedent for many British overseas territories and Commonwealth countries that rely on the Privy Council as their final court.

Among those overseas territories, the following five do not currently accept marriage equality: Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and Turks and Caicos.

Among those Commonwealth countries, the following 12 do not currently accept marriage equality: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Brunei, Grenada, Jamaica, Kiribati, Mauritius, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and Tuvalu.

In addition, the Cook Islands and Niue, associated states of New Zealand, also bar same-sex marriages and have the Privy Council as their final court of appeal.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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