Thursday, November 24, 2016

Gay Rights Trial

A Gay Rights Trial in the High Court of Anguilla
While attending the 2016 Law Week activities hosted by the Grenada Bar Association a few weeks ago, I was called on to judge a moot between two teams of High School students.  The moot was argued at the High Court in Grenada.  This was the scenario on which the students were required to address the Court:
Greyson Williams, 63 years old, was born in Grenada on June 10th 1953 and migrated to Canada in April of 1992.  Since migrating, Greyson gained citizenship in Canada
Greyson was a mechanical engineer and worked at Times Engineering Company in Toronto.  He received numerous awards for his academic excellence and contribution to the field of engineering.  Greyson frequently travelled back to Grenada and purchased a piece of property in St David’s valued at US$1.5 million.
While in Canada, Greyson met another person of Grenadian descent, Matthias Charles.  Matthias is a heart surgeon and himself quite successful.
Williams and Matthias met in 1993 and grew very close.  They spent a significant amount of time together, travelling the world and investing together.  They often travelled to Grenada together on vacation.  They have joint accounts and own several properties jointly in Canada.
Williams and Matthias married in August 2005, soon after the legalisation of same-sex marriages in Canada.  They were married 10 years but in a relationship for 22 years.
They adopted a son together, John Williams-Charles, when he was 11 years old in 2006.  John is currently in his second year at McMasters University pursuing a degree in math.  He is very supportive of both his parents.  He speaks highly of the life they provided for him, his education, and the love and support he received throughout his childhood spent with them.  Prior to this, he was in a foster home.  There, he suffered abuse and neglect.  He does not know his biological parents.  Greyson and Matthias arranged for him to receive counselling.
Greyson passed away unexpectedly in January 2016.  He always expressed his wish to be buried next to his parents in Grand Bras Cemetery in St Andrews.  Both his husband and son came to Grenada and made all the funeral arrangements. 
Greyson died intestate.  Matthias has since applied to the Supreme Court Registry for a Grant of Letters of Administration, exhibiting a copy of his Marriage Certificate evidencing his marriage to Greyson.
The Registry has refused to process his application as Greyson’s husband on the basis that marriage in Grenada is only recognised as between a man and a woman.
Matthias has filed a constitutional motion on the basis that the Registrar’s decision violates section 13(2) of the Constitution of Grenada, claiming that he is being treated in a discriminatory manner based on his sex.
If, instead of this being a Grenadian scenario it was Anguillian one, and if this were an Anguillian case brought under the Anguilla Constitution, and if you were counsel arguing for one of the parties, what would your submissions likely be?
I might add that the Grenadian students did very well on the constitutional arguments, but both teams missed a procedural point that would determine the outcome of the trial.  Will you also miss it?
I shall deliver my “judgment” after a suitably decent period of contemplation.
Don Mitchell, CBE, QC