Panton offers backing to LGBT community

| 19/08/2015 | 310 Comments
Cayman News Service

Wayne Panton, Minister of Financial Services, Commerce and Environment

(CNS): A Cabinet minister has taken a stand against comments condemning homosexuality made in the Legislative Assembly last week during a private member’s motion on traditional marriage. Saddened by the content and tone of the debate, Wayne Panton said he did not want to be associated in any way with much of what was said and is the first member of government to publicly offer his support to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in the fight to end discrimination. Panton said it was time for Cayman society to respect and embrace all of its people, regardless of their sexual orientation.

“I do not want to be associated with the language used or the arguments made on Thursday,” Panton told CNS. “I was astonished that so much was said that was so hurtful to the LGBT community in Cayman and we have to be better than that.”

Panton took no part in the debate on the motion presented by Anthony Eden asking government to reaffirm the constitutional and legislative position on marriage as a partnership between a man and a woman. Given that it was a purely academic proposition, requiring no change to any law or even preventing government from creating future legislation for civil unions, Panton said he had no reason to consider the motion controversial until the debate began.

“I was so shocked by the language used and the statements made on the floor of the Legislative Assembly that I did not believe I would be able to contribute in a constructive manner on the day,” he said, as he expressed his hurt, disappointment, regret and anger over the things that were said.

“The movers of the motion are my friends and they are kind and genuinely caring people but I have no explanation for the positions taken and why the debate devolved to that extent,” he added.

Regretting deeply the message that was delivered to the LGBT community, Panton said that this type of language was the reason why many Caymanians were forced to live overseas because they did not feel welcome in their own homeland and he condemned the position that was taken by his party colleagues.

“Why as a society should we tolerate the need for our sons, daughters and other family members to leave their own country because they feel our society won’t accept them as they are?” Panton asked, adding that such discrimination tore families apart. “People are even afraid to love family members who are gay because of what society will say.”

With a reasonable estimate that some 10-15% of the Caymanian population is within the LGBT community, Panton said it was important that those who are discriminating understand that this is not an “outside thing”.

“They are our people, our sisters and brothers, our aunts, uncles and our sons and daughters,” Panton said. “And It is not a chosen lifestyle. Who in the world would choose to subject themselves to this kind of oppression, denigration and vitriol?” he asked.

Panton he said he wanted his government colleagues and everyone in the Cayman community that harboured misconceptions about people of a different sexual orientation to understand that members of the LGBT community are no different from anyone else who suffers unfair discrimination and injustice.

“They feel, they hurt, just like any of us and deserve acceptance, love and respect,” Panton said.

The minister talked about the importance of assessing all people on their character and not their sexual orientation and expressed his outrage that links were drawn by his colleagues between homosexuality with paedophilia.

“It is ridiculous and certainly not logical or supported by any evidence,” he added.

Wanting gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people to feel they are a part of society, Panton said it was time for those with irrational prejudices on sexual orientation to redirect their intolerance.

“If we are going to be intolerant, let us be intolerant of crime, corruption and injustice, not our own people,” he said.

The minister said, however, that he remained hopeful of a sea change in opinions on the matter, as he pointed to the younger generation in Cayman who are much more understanding and realize that the old mentality on this is wrong and will not prevail in the end. He said the current prejudices are no different from the gender and race prejudices that today are roundly condemned.

“We have gone through trauma in history that we must learn from and stop the discrimination against sexual orientation,” he said. “This notion that it is against our culture is wrong. Human emotions are not expressed differently in different cultures. People don’t hurt less because they live in the Caribbean.”

Panton added that despite government’s acceptance of Anthony Eden’s motion, there is nothing in the constitution that prevents recognition of rights for same-sex unions.

“I was prepared to support the motion before I heard the debate as it merely confirms what’s in the constitution but at some point we will have civil unions and it is something as a community we need to arrive at together. Public opinion is already way ahead of the political body on this and when it happens we will have a better society. Nothing bad is going to happen because of it.”

Panton said he was looking forward to a time when Cayman society can put such intolerance behind it and when everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, is accepted on equal terms.

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Comments (310)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    ex-cabinet member…there is a reason he was a one term MLA..

  2. Horrified says:

    Mr Panton. I applaud you for standing up to these ignorant politicians. The world is filled with really serious issues like wars, droughts and other huge humanitarian issues and I am embarrassed being in Cayman with these small minded attitudes. Cayman needs more like you and less of them.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Panton is to be admired and commended. He indeed sounds like a statesman and not a politician. If you voted to put Mr. Panton in office, then you can be proud. Of course with the fine and noble name of Panton, I would expect no less than statesmanship.

  4. Anonymous says:

    “Who in the world would choose to subject themselves to this kind of oppression, denigration and vitriol?” — Expats in Cayman!!!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      7:49. Why expats feel that they should come here and change the landscape? If you are not comfortable with what you find here, see here, breathe here, enjoy here, then pack your traps and get on your merry way. It is time for us to take the bull by the horns and let you “Johnny come Lately” know, that the LGBTs can go and marry anywhere in the world that it is allowed and accepted.
      Our constitution is what Mr. Eden based his debate on and he has to make no apology to anyone. Why are we always expected to bend over backwards and in the process, lie down and play dead? If it is the norm in your country, move on and enjoy.

      • Anonymous says:

        Sorry that’s not what I meant, I only meant that expats would also subject themselves to oppression, denigration and vitriol whilst living here but still choose to stay and also obey Caymanian law.

      • Anonymous says:

        Have you missed the bit completely that it is Caymanians that are being discriminated against. THEIR COUNTRY. So you agree they should be banished? Disgraceful

  5. Ron says:

    Question for the knot so smart: for years people said smoking and drinking were bad habits. Could it be some people were born to smoke and drink? If they are, why is it that smokers have to be 10 feet away from a public place and drunks aren’t allowed to drive. Isn’t it their constitutional right to do as they please even if it potentially could create a problem for others? My personal opinion is that global human rights is pushing the boundaries too far and sooner or later criminals will only get house arrest for murdering, drugs, prostitution, etc…..somewhere someday someone or some group will have to draw a line in the sand and say no more. Where is the restituion for the victims?

  6. Yo Mama says:

    Imagine how great Cayman could be with a dozen people of Mr Panton’s caliber. Why is intelligence, compassion, and sense of justice so rare in the LA?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Omg, if you are straight you are straight, if you are gay you are gay. None of us asked for our orientations, they just are. I am a straight woman, I could no sooner become a lesbian than I could become a a coconut tree.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Eden’s remarks are those of a generation past. His comments are so sad and homophobic as to be comical. I do not villify him, he is a a product of his upbringing and generation. I am a child of the 60s, I have grown old now, so I am close to being a chronological equal…but I have a different world view than Mr. Eden, I beleive in freedom, autonomomy, and equal rights for all people, women and men, gay and straight. I have friends who are gay, co-workers, aquaintances. I have friends that I have known since childhood that are gay, they are no less amazing people because of their orientation. Mr. Eden proports to be a Christian, does he think that God made a mistake 10% of the time?

    • Anonymous says:

      Agreed, I share your values, and am also close to the age of Mr. Eden. I feel a bit sorry for him because I think he is just repeating stuff he’s heard, just trying to keep up, because he’s never been very bright.

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