–From “Macbeth” by William Shakespeare
We refer, of course, not to the tragedy played out on Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in the early 1600s but to the comedy that is played out all too often on the stage of Cayman’s Legislative Assembly.
Our orator, in this instance, was not a thespian but a politician, a man ordinarily of few words – but not on Thursday of last week. The Hon. Anthony Eden, nearly an hour after he began his soliloquy, finally (and thankfully) yielded the floor, leaving all of us in Cayman to ponder the wisdom – or lack thereof – of his message.
The quote from Shakespeare cited above is widely believed to be one of his most memorable. We fear that Mr. Eden’s speech likewise will be recalled when future generations reminisce about the legend, lore and leaders of these islands.
For those who missed it, the Bodden Town representative was speaking in support of his own motion which would maintain the definition of marriage in the Cayman Islands as being between a man and a woman. Nothing wrong with that.
Then things started getting a little bit, er, odd. Mr. Eden proclaimed his own motion to be “one of the most important motions for this House and the people of the Cayman Islands.”
Of course, it was no such thing, since it merely underscored what is already contained in the Cayman Constitution Order 2009, namely that marriage is defined as a union between a man and a woman. Mr. Eden’s motion, which passed the House unanimously, added nothing to that enshrined principle.
Mr. Eden (apparently) was reacting to a recommendation from the Cayman Islands Human Rights Commission that the government enact legislation recognizing civil unions between same-sex couples. These unions would give same-sex couples similar legal rights to those enjoyed by married couples. The Human Rights Commission made the recommendation because of a recent ruling from the European Court of Human Rights that found Italy was in breach of established human rights principles for failing to offer enough legal protection for same-sex unions. Since the Cayman Islands falls within the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights, not enacting legislation recognizing same-sex civil unions could lead to successful court challenges.
Whether Mr. Eden understands the difference between a marriage and a civil union was unclear (and largely unimportant) judging from the content of his speech. What was clear, however, was his hostility – even loathing – for his homosexual brethren on these islands and elsewhere.
His rhetoric was largely Bible-based with Satan playing a starring role in his belief system – not a bad choice for an evangelical preacher, but perhaps less so for an influential and, one would hope, well-reasoned political leader.
No one in Cayman stands ahead of the Compass when it comes to defending freedom of speech, but wise people, especially legislators who are perceived to speak not only for these islands but their people, ought to be more careful.
The days are long gone when remarks such as Mr. Eden’s are contained to the audience of those who live and visit here. Legislators should keep in mind that “the whole wide world is watching” – always.
If the purpose of Mr. Eden’s discriminatory diatribe was to confirm the Cayman Islands’ adherence to Christian values, it failed. Where it succeeded was to put the Cayman Islands back in the international spotlight as an intolerant, homophobic country (reminiscent of the “gay cruise ship debacle” or the “gay kissers” episode on Seven Mile Beach).
And for that, we should all feel truly concerned – and embarrassed.