Same-sex couple plan immigration challenge

| 02/09/2015 | 219 Comments
Cayman News Service

Dr Leonardo Raznovich

(CNS): Two gay lawyers resident in Cayman who are legally married in their relevant home countries will be mounting a legal challenge to an immigration decision, which could set the ball rolling for the legitimisation of same-sex unions here. In an ironic twist, the first person to publicly address the gap in the Cayman Islands legislation regarding gay marriage, which happened in a series of lectures hosted by the students of the local law school, is set to be at the centre of what could be the country’s first courtroom battle over rights for same-sex couples.

Dr Leonardo Raznovich, who has been publicly outspoken about Cayman’s need to address legislation on the controversial subject, has become a victim of the very situation that he has warned government about.

A lecturer at the school for the last two years until last week, when, despite having the best performing students, his contract was not renewed, he was told officially that he was being let go over performance issues. But Raznovich claims the allegations are unfounded and believes his vocal position on the topic of gay rights and his criticisms of the school’s management are the real reason why he finds himself out of a job and facing deportation in a matter of weeks – though this was denied by the law school.

Given the circumstances and not wishing to leave his partner of 16 years, his husband has applied for the former popular law school lecturer to be a dependent on his work permit for the time being. As a successful lawyer himself in the offshore industry, who has been in Cayman for more than four years, Raznovich’s husband has no problem meeting the necessary financial criteria to enable his spouse to remain with him in Cayman as a dependant on his work permit, which is held by a local law firm.

But despite the fact that the couple’s marriage is perfectly legal in both their native countries of Argentina and the UK, the Immigration Board has indicated that they cannot accommodate the request due to a lack of legal framework. Although the board has not yet issued its formal letter to the couple, the internal tracking system allowed the pair to see the decision that the board has ‘no power’ to allow the change to Raznovich’s husband’s permit, which was made at last week’s board meeting.

“This is a clear case of incompatibility between the legislation enforced by the immigration authority in relation to applications made by married same-sex couples and the European Convention on Human Rights,’’ Raznovich told CNS. “We are very happy in Cayman and have been very welcome here and we have not met with any discrimination in our daily lives up until now.”

As a result, Raznovich said the married couple will be challenging the decision, as they both believe the law is actually on their side. Although the board may be correct that the immigration law has no provision for same-sex spouses, the common law makes it clear that, as a legitimate spouse, Raznovich is a dependent of his husband in the same way that a dependent spouse in a heterosexual couple would be.

In addition, the legal expert also pointed out that in a trust case dealing with inheritance rights by the financial division of the Grand Court last year, Justice Peter Creswell found that the polygamist marriage in question was recognized in Cayman law, even though polygamy is illegal here, because the marriage was legitimate in the country of origin of the family involved.

Given this local precedent, plus the Cayman marriage law, the absence of a framework in the immigration law, recent rulings in the European Court of Human Rights and the US Supreme Court, the couple are confident that the local courts will, in the end, rule in their favour.

Once in receipt of their formal letter, the couple plan to mount a challenge to the board’s refusal. Given the process required, Raznovich said, they may first need to apply to the Immigration Appeals Tribunal, but given the lack of a legal framework in the immigration law, that may be a pointless exercise. As such, they could apply to the Grand Court to circumvent that process and go straight to the courtroom, where, if successful, the couple could open the can of legal worms that the current administration seems keen to avoid.

Raznovich, however, said that government could address the question of his dependency through a change in the immigration law regulations by properly defining dependents and covering all spouses of legitimate marriages, regardless of gender. This would avoid the public drama surrounding a high-profile court case that the government looks destined to lose but it could also lead to more legal problems for the administration regarding the rights of the native gay community.

Changes to the immigration regulations to facilitate dependents of all legal spouses capable of being financially supported by the work permit holders could only apply to same-sex couples who are natives of countries where their marriages are legal and not to locals where gay marriage is not yet legally recognized. This would mean that government was effectively recognizing legal gay marriages for some sectors of the community and not others.

By way of example, a Caymanian who marries an American of the same sex in the United States could not have their spouse as a dependent as that marriage would not be recognized as legitimate in Cayman.

Writing to the attorney general on his last day at the law school, Raznovich reminded him of the problems with local legislation and urged him to address the issue.

“Now that a case of incompatibility has in fact arisen by virtue of the declaration of the Immigration Authority that no statutory framework exists to deal with applications made by married same-sex couples,” he said, “there is an obvious and urgent need for government to act in order to prevent the Cayman Islands from continuing to breach the rule of law on the world stage.”

See Dr Leonardo J Raznovich’s presentation below, which was first delivered at the Grand Court in the series organized by the law school’s student body and later at a local TedX event.

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Comments (219)

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  1. John says:

    I think people should be allowed to do anything they want to.

  2. Anonymous says:

    If two people get married just so one can remain on the Island would that not be a marriage of convenience under the Immigration Law?

    • Anonymous says:

      If you refer to the case upon which this thread is based, it is my understanding these men are already married.

  3. Anonymous says:

    What some human beings do to be so full of vengeance upon otbers when they dont know them for no other no reason other than their own fears.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Dr Raznovich, I am opening a new business if you are interested. Obviously as a Caymanian I own 60 and you 40. Wld obviously depend on you being a granted a work permit as a business partner. Dont see any reason why it should not be approved. Is there?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Why are you all scared of otber people living their lives?

    • Anonymous says:

      So deep. I’ll get back to you, son.

    • Anonymous says:

      What you ask requires a modicum of self examination which is an unheard of characteristic lacking from most of the posters to these threads.

      One line retorts usually of a high school nature are the norm.

      The usual fear of men overreacting to homosexuality is their fear of having homosexual feelings themselves but good luck finding anyone adult enough to ever admit it.

      It will be fun to read the threatened high school responses to this posting…

  6. Anonymous says:

    Each person is born with human rights and do not need to beg or ask approval. Those who take their human rights for granted are the ones that are scared. Lest anything disturb their privilege for which they did not have to fight. But now want to fight those who have the same rights.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Ah Ghandi

  8. Anonymous says:

    If I go to the United States and they refuse to accommodate me by changing their laws to driving on the left side of the road then the solution for me would be to find some other country where driving on the left is recognized and acceptable. Who am I to challenge the U.S. to change their laws to accommodate me. We are happy the way we are. If you don’t feel you fit in, then leave us alone. Simple as that.

    • Anonymous says:

      Why are you going to the so called United States? You are the one saying they dont fit on. Fit into what? Why are you scared? I dont fit into your box and thank never will. Simple as that. Yes it is as simple as that! Now you leave me alone and i am not gay and wld not want to know you either!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Human rights against The mass of incompetent, corrupt, (but Christian) Caymanian intelligence. This will be a big long fight that can not be won. Even Jesus would tell you to just plan on moving to the new world and leave the island of the lost behind.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I don’t see the urgency in CIG addressing this right now. After all, there are still other jurisdictions out there like Isle of Man where unions of same sex are still not recognized. There are much more important issues that need urgent resolution. So what if the present government and hardline Christians are against it, in 10 years time they will be in the minority. It has to happen eventually. These islands are just going through puberty sooner or later they will realize a sexual epiphany.

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