LGBT rights in the Cayman Islands

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StatusLegal since 2001[1]
Gender identityNo
Discrimination protectionsNo
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsSome recognition pertaining to immigration

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in the Cayman Islands may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity are legal in the Cayman Islands.

On 29 March 2019, the Chief Justice of the Cayman Islands issued a ruling holding the territory's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. This ruling has been stayed pending appeal, with the appeal expected to be heard sometime in August 2019.

Legality of same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Same-sex sexual acts were expressly decriminalised under Britain's Caribbean Territories (Criminal Law) Order, 2000, which took effect on 1 January 2001.[2]

Britain's International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights report on its Overseas Territories on Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, the Pitcairn Islands, Saint Helena and the Turks and Caicos Islands stated in 1999 stated that "The United Kingdom Government is concerned that all Overseas Territories should adopt – as most of them, indeed, already do – substantially the same position as obtains in the United Kingdom itself in respect of capital punishment, judicial corporal punishment and the treatment as criminal offences of homosexual acts between consenting adults in private".[3]

The repeal of the anti-gay law was condemned by conservative groups and politicians, several of whom made conspiracy theories of a supposed secret gay lobby trying to destroy Cayman values and Christianity.[4]

The age of consent is higher for homosexuals (18) than it is for heterosexuals (16).[5]

Recognition of same-sex couples[edit]

The Marriage Law of the Cayman Islands defines marriage between one man and one woman.[6] The Constitution notes the right of opposite-sex couples to marry, though it does not explicitly mention same-sex unions.[7]

Since then, incremental reforms have been made to recognise some rights for same-sex couples. In July 2016, the Immigration Appeals Tribunal ruled in favour of a gay man who wished to be added to his spouse's work permit as a dependent.[8] Later that year, the Legislative Assembly voted against a motion to hold a referendum on whether the territory should legalise same-sex marriage.[9] A lawsuit brought by a dual Caymanian-British same-sex couple, challenging the ban on same-sex marriage, was lodged in the Grand Court. Oral arguments were heard in the case in February 2019,[10] with the decision in favour of recognising same-sex marriage published on 29 March 2019.[11]

However, the Government of the Cayman Islands appealed the decision to the Court of Appeal, and the ruling was stayed on 10 April. The appeal will be heard in August 2019.[12] Legal experts widely consider it "doomed to fail".[13]

Discrimination protections[edit]

In 2009, a draft constitution excluded LGBT rights. The British Foreign Affairs Committee described the decision to exclude sexual orientation as a prohibited ground for discrimination as "deplorable" and raised concerns that it breached human rights laws. It raised the possibility that Cayman Islands residents could be afforded less than the full protection to which they are entitled, under the European Convention on Human Rights.[14]

Military service[edit]

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have been allowed to serve openly in the British Armed Forces since 2000.[15]

Living conditions[edit]

Open displays of affection between same-sex partners may offend. Cayman society tends to be conservative when dealing with issues such as LGBT rights, though the younger generation is considered to be increasingly culturally liberal.[4]

The gay scene in the Cayman Islands is limited, with no specific gay nightclubs or beaches.[4] However, several hotels and tourist areas cater to gay clientele.


While the Cayman Islands is officially secular and the Constitution guarantees equality and non-discrimination, the Government has been particularly vocal and unapologetic in expressing its anti-gay attitudes. In 1998, it forbade a Norwegian Cruise Line ship carrying over 900 gay travellers from porting. The Tourism Ministry stated: "We cannot count on this group to uphold the standards of appropriate behaviour expected of visitors to the Cayman Islands."[4] The ban drew criticism from human rights groups and travel agencies, some of which advised a boycott of the islands.[4] In 2008, police arrested a Massachusetts gay man after he kissed his partner on a nightclub dancefloor. He was later released.[4]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 2001)
Equal age of consent No
Anti-discrimination laws in employment No
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Same-sex marriages No (Court decision pending)
Recognition of same-sex couples No/Yes (First same-sex couple recognised for immigration purposes in 2016)
Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
LGBT people allowed to serve openly in the military Yes (Since 2000; responsibility of the United Kingdom)
Right to change legal gender No
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No (Banned for heterosexual couples as well)
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also[edit]


  1. ^ State-sponsored Homophobia A world survey of laws prohibiting same sex activity between consenting adults Archived 2013-07-19 at WebCite
  2. ^ "MPs criticise Cayman Islands' draft constitution for omitting gay rights". Pink News. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  3. ^ Gay Life in Cayman Islands
  4. ^ a b c d e f Gay Life in Cayman Islands
  5. ^ Cayman may have to sanction same sex unions, expert says
  6. ^ "Couple files legal challenge to gay marriage ban". Cayman Compass. 20 June 2018.
  7. ^ "The Cayman Islands Constitution Order 2009, Section 14, 'Marriage'" (PDF). Cayman Constitution. Retrieved May 20, 2016.
  8. ^ Gay couple wins work permit appeal
  9. ^ UPDATED: Bid for referendum on gay marriage fails Cayman Compass, 6 October 2016
  10. ^ "Arguments conclude in landmark same-sex marriage case". 12 February 2019.
  11. ^ Whittaker, James. "BREAKING: Chief Justice rules same-sex marriage is legal | Cayman Compass". Retrieved 2019-03-29.
  12. ^ "Appeal court grants stay in gay marriage case". Cayman News Service. 10 April 2019. Retrieved 10 April 2019.
  13. ^ "Cayman Islands appeal court grants stay in same-sex marriage case". Caribbean News Now. 15 April 2019.
  14. ^ "MPs criticise Cayman Islands' draft constitution for omitting gay rights". Pink News. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  15. ^ UK armed forces recruits to be asked if they are gay The Guardian