When the United Kingdom legalized gay marriage in March of 2014, the impact was felt far and wide throughout the country. However, for an historic decision that was meant to be inclusive, the end result did just the opposite — it left many out.
It has been more than four years since British law began recognizing same-sex marriages, yet when British citizens Chantelle Day and her fiancée, Vickie Bodden, applied for a marriage license last month in the overseas British-owned territory, the Cayman Islands, they were met with swift rejection. Because the Cayman government still defines marriage as between a man and a woman, it refuses to recognize their relationship, which Chantelle says makes her and her fiancée, who have been together for more than six years, feel like second-class British citizens.
Chantelle and Vickie plan to fight back in court to bring change to the islands once and for all, but the legal costs of such a battle are overwhelming, so they've turned to GoFundMe in hopes to find the support and donations needed to raise 25,000 British pounds. It’s not going to be an easy feat, but Chantelle and Vickie say the fight is going to be more than worth it.
“We really hope that by standing up for this we can create an equal and inclusive society that will benefit everyone going forward,” Chantelle says. “[This] will open the door for all other LGBT+ Caymanians and hopefully set an example for the U.K. government to step in and rectify this injustice across all of its overseas territories so couples after Vickie and me won't have to shoulder the burden of the responsibility of both the Cayman and U.K. governments.”
Not only is gay marriage banned in the Cayman Islands, the government also does not recognize any form of civil partnership between same-sex couples. That is, however, unless you’re a non-citizen. For foreign same-sex couples who married overseas and now live in the Cayman Islands, the Cayman government legally recognizes their union. But the same can't be said for its own citizens. These circumstances have forced Chantelle and Vickie to move away from their friends, family and support system to raise their 4-year-old daughter in London.
“We ultimately left Cayman because there was no avenue for our relationship to be legally recognized even if we were married as the Cayman Islands doesn't recognize same-sex marriage or civil unions where one member of the union is a Cayman national,” Chantelle says. “Vickie and I have always wanted to settle in Cayman as we both have family there and it’s where we consider home. But when Vickie and I became engaged in September last year, we knew that if we got married in the U.K. or elsewhere where same-sex marriage is permitted, the Cayman Islands would not recognize our union, and it would be as if it never existed under the eyes of the Cayman law. To not pursue a legal challenge would mean effectively living in exile from our home and remaining in the U.K. indefinitely, away from our family and friends.”
Although the British government is capable of intervention — it decriminalized homosexuality in all overseas territories in 2001 — no steps have been taken to extend the same rights it offers British citizens in the U.K. to British citizens living in overseas territories. But the western Caribbean islands aren't the only British territory facing this issue. Nearly half of British overseas territories do not perform or recognize same-sex marriages. Still, Chantelle and Vickie are hopeful that this is the beginning of an impactful change.
“The ultimate joy will be when this is a reality and Vickie and I can finally have our dream wedding on the island that we consider home, surrounded by our loved ones,” she says. “Love is love, and we will make a stand for equal rights in the eyes of the law as there’s nothing more worthy of fighting for.”
To help Chantelle and Vickie in their fight for marriage equality in the Cayman Islands, check out their GoFundMe campaign here.