(CNS): The UK’s overseas territories minister, Baroness Anelay, told the Legislative Assembly Tuesday that the continued discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community placed the Cayman Islands Government in breach of its legal obligations. Addressing MLAs at the opening of parliament this morning, she said that the UK had no plans to impose same-sex marriage but implied that there must be some form of equality legislation.
During her short visit the Foreign and Commonwealth junior minister, who is well-known for her support of human rights and equality issues, said she was aware of the sensitivity of the subject and the debates happening in Cayman but she warned that no country could realise its full potential until it drew on the talents of all of its people, and suggested there was an economic as well as a legal imperative to deal with equity for LGBT people.
Baroness Anelay said it took some time in the UK for equality legislation so she understood the need for time to reflect. Assuring the local politicians that she was not here to lecture, she said it was the position of the UK and in the interests of everyone for the Cayman government to ensure equality for the LGBT community.
In her short speech she spoke about the opportunities created by the results of the referendum in the UK to leave the European Union, the environment, the quality of Cayman’s civil service and the police, as well as the upcoming Joint Ministerial Council meeting in London in November.
Responding to the baroness, Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush, who gave the vote of thanks, said Cayman did not discriminate against the LGBT community but stated that his party did not support altering any laws, accommodating any board decisions or changing the culture to provide equity for same-sex relationships.
Speaker of the House Julianna O’Connor-Connolly, as she also thanked the minister for coming to talk to the LA, put on record her own objections to equality for the LGBT community and suggested her constituents also shared those concerns.
During her visit the overseas minister is scheduled to meet with James Austin-Smith, the chair of the Human Rights Commission, and is expected to discuss the need for a legal framework to register same-sex relationship and extend rights to gay couples for issues such as property, pension and medical rights.
However, the powerful church lobby remains steadfastly opposed to any such rights, not only opposing gay marriage but any kind of recognition of gay partnerships.
A recent religious rally, which focused almost entirely on the church’s opposition to LGBT rights, attracted almost a 1,000 people, and during this legislative session the opposition members have all signed a private member’s motion calling for a referendum on gay marriage, as they believe the current voters register would produce an overwhelming ‘no’ result and arm Cayman against any imposition of gay marriage by the UK via an order in council.
Ultimately, whether Cayman institutes gay marriage or simply civil unions that extend the same legal rights to same-sex couples as those normally bestowed upon married couples, it has an international legal obligation as a dependent territory to provide legal equality regardless of the current populist discriminatory position.
Check back to CNS later for more on the visit by the OT minister.