(CNS): A representative from Colours Cayman, the only organisation in the Cayman Islands campaigning for equal rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community has called on the UK to end the inequity, discrimination and mounting hostility against them. Billie Bryan, who founded the grassroots organisation, is urging Governor Helen Kilpatrick to help pave the way for a legal framework providing rights for LGBT people and for the registration of same-sex relationships. Given the absence of local political support, the activist is asking the British to make an order in council to legitimise same-sex unions.
With the mounting hostility and the almost total political discrimination against the gay community, Bryan wants the UK to step in and protect their rights and to ensure that the “power of the church” locally is no longer allowed to fuel the discrimination, which, she said, is such that “no politician” has dared to challenge the “legally enforced discrimination that LGBTQ people suffer in the Cayman Islands”.
Bryan pointed out that while the current premier has asked people to be fair and stop the intolerance, he has nevertheless made it quite clear he will not be introducing any rights for the LGBT people to enjoy a family life like other members of the wider community, even though this is contrary to the Cayman Islands Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.
Premier Alden McLaughlin is also refusing to introduce any legal framework that would accommodate even the registration of same-sex relationships.
The LGBT community also has little hope of redress through the courts. With a lack of options, Bryan is seeking the help of the governor and the overseas territories minister. She has asked to meet Baroness Joyce Anelay, who is visiting Cayman next month and who has been open about her committed support for equity for the LGBT community everywhere in the world.
However, when government released details of her visit, there was no indication that Bryan or any other Colours Cayman representative will be allowed to talk to someone who could change the unfair and inequitable treatment and stop the very public discrimination currently suffered by this community.
If the LGBT community here could find the money to challenge the issue in the courts, the outcome, given legal precedent elsewhere, would likely be in their favour. However, the ruling of the court would be limited to a statement of incompatibility with the Constitution and would still require the legislators to act.
From the 18 members currently elected to parliament, Financial Services Minister Wayne Panton is the only MLA who has offered his support to the gay community and backed the ultimate introduction of a legal framework for same-sex unions.
The recent blatant discrimination and intolerance towards the LGBT community, which is being described as an ‘alternative lifestyle’ by those who oppose their right to their own sexuality, also makes a court case very challenging. Bryan said many members of the community have “a real, legitimate fear of losing jobs and being expelled from family and society” if they were to take such public action, especially as there are no laws to protect them.
Concerned that almost all legislators have committed to preventing LGBTs ever achieving equality and that the current administration has ignored requests to address the concerns highlighted by the Human Rights Commission, the only course is for the community is to petition the UK to impose some form of legal framework by an order in council.
“The LGBTQ people of the Cayman Islands are a minority to which the majority has made its quest to discriminate by legally oppressing and segregating, while the Cayman Islands’ leaders have collectively said ‘no’ to its LGBTQ people. There is nothing within our power to legally change this,” Bryan has said in an open letter to the governor. “It has left no room for the UK not to take action, otherwise it will ultimately be held accountable and face consequences for failing to ensure compliance by the Cayman Islands of its obligations under the European Convention.”
Bryan raises the fact that the UK has intervened in many local issues, including ones relating to fiscal prudence and the financial services sector. She said that human rights “should, at the very least, be afforded equal importance” as fiscal concerns.
As the LGBT community is wholly disfranchised from the political system, without any hope of making a difference in any elections, Bryan has clearly pointed out the lack of options and asked for either the Equal Marriage Act, 2013 to be extended to the Cayman Islands or at least the Civil Partnership Act, 2004.
Although the governor has appeared sympathetic to the cause and her daughter has led a number of initiatives via the Truman Bodden Law School to elevate the debate about the rights of gay and lesbian people here, the governor has made no comment about the introduction of sanctioned same-sex unions.
When Grant Shapps stood-in for the former overseas territories minister, James Dudderidge, on a visit to Cayman in 2015, he said that the issue of same-sex unions was a matter for the local government, though he pointed out that the UK does not support discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.
However, Baroness Anelay has proved to be more of an advocate for human rights than her former ministerial colleague. She has advocated to defend LGBT rights and supported civil society organisations in other parts of the Caribbean.
Category: Local News