(CNS): While 2016 was the year that Cayman began talking openly about equality for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, local activists hope that 2017 will be the year things really start to change. Building on the momentum from last year, Colours Cayman is hoping that the UK will help to move the local government towards legislative changes that will introduce true equality. While members of the LGBT community in Cayman have traditionally kept a very low profile, 2016 revealed a shift with the emergence of a Colours, a fully formed organisation to act as their voice.
Last year, the issues of same-sex marriage and equality for all continued to dominate the news headlines, as a few small but significant steps were achieved. The Immigration Appeals Tribunal found that local law required recognition of same-sex dependent spouses who were legally married; Cayman hosted its first ever international conference relating to LGBT issues; and Baroness Anelay, an advocate of human rights, was appointed as the British Overseas Territories minister and made it clear on her visit here that she expected the local government to abide by international obligations when it came to equality for members of the LGBT community.
Given the fact that LBGT issues moved into the spotlight, it was no surprise that there was still considerable backlash from some in the religious community and politicians. In September, the various Christian denominations put aside their theological disagreements over who represents the real path to ‘truth’ to unite for an anti-gay rally. A private member’s motion calling for a referendum on the issue of gay marriage, filed by the opposition leader, was rejected by government as the premier said his administration had no plans to introduce same-sex unions. But it offered another opportunity for some elected officials to vilify their LGBT constituents.
Although there has been no real ‘road to Damascus’ moment for any of members of the Legislative Assembly, with Wayne Panton remaining the only minister still openly offering his support to the LGBT community, during the debate a number of members were keen to stress they wanted to ensure everyone was treated equally and that members of the LGBT community were not discriminated against.
However, Gender Affairs Minister Tara Rivers is still in denial that the issue is one that falls under her remit, and requests from Colours for clarification and questions submitted by CNS about who, if not the gender affairs minister, is responsible for this issue went unanswered.
Billie Bryan, the founder of Cayman Colours, said she expected many more challenges ahead this year for the LGBT community but said she hoped to build on the momentum. In a New Year statement, she said that the efforts of Colours Cayman have placed the issue in the spotlight, but despite the growing support from the wider community for LGBT equality, there is a lot of work to be done and “the challenges that lie ahead are formidable ones”, she warned.
“Our elected officials can either move us boldly forward towards real inclusion or draw us back into the shadows. It is up to us as a collective, as a people, to hold their feet to the fire and ensure their words of campaigning for equal representation don’t fall on deaf ears,” she said. “Now is the time to make good on that promise of fighting for the dignity of all Caymanians.”
Bound to be an issue on the election campaign trail, it remains to be seen if any candidate is bold enough to put the pursuit of same-sex marriage on their platform.