Marriage debate was 'hate speech,' rights commission says

Stating its members were “shocked” by press reports of the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly’s debate on the definition of marriage last week, the Human Rights Commission accused certain MLAs of using their elected positions to espouse “poisonous hate speech and threats of violence” against homosexual men and women. 

The five-member commission, in a press statement issued Thursday afternoon, said the use of elected office to “peddle inaccurate, vitriolic and thoroughly hateful misinformation” concerning the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community – an already maligned section of the public” – was disappointing, to say the least. 

“Parliamentary privilege is just that – a privilege,” the commission’s statement read. “With it comes great responsibility. It was disappointing to see it so disgracefully abused last week. 

“It is also a source of particular regret that, apparently, the overwhelming majority of members present at that ‘debate’ did not see fit to challenge these statements in any way,” the press release stated. 

The “debate” referred to in the commission’s statement took place Aug. 13 on a private members’ motion filed by Bodden Town MLA Anthony Eden which sought to confirm the definition of marriage in the Cayman Islands as between one man and one woman. The Cayman Islands Constitution Order 2009 already defines marriage as such, as does the Marriage Law. 

Mr. Eden’s presentation on his motion, which he said was “based on Holy Bible evidence,” was not limited to a discussion of the definition of marriage. He also admonished homosexual behavior in general and warned people against “satanic confusion.” 

Bodden Town MLA Alva Suckoo, who seconded Mr. Eden’s motion, said that while he did not wish to “launch an assault on homosexuals,” in his Bible, homosexuality is a sin, and he “shouldn’t be expected to support legislation that would allow sin.” 

Finance Minister Marco Archer also spoke in favor of the motion during the debate, but in far milder terms.  

In the end, 13 Legislative Assembly members voted in favor of the motion. Four members, Premier Alden McLaughlin, Financial Services Minister Wayne Panton, North Side MLA Ezzard Miller and George Town MLA Joey Hew, were absent for the vote. Speaker of the House Juliana O’Connor-Connolly also spoke in support of the motion following the debate, although the Speaker’s position does not get a vote in House proceedings unless to serve as a tie-breaker. 

Since the vote, Minister Panton and George Town MLA Winston Connolly have sought to clarify their respective positions on the motion in various local media, but neither spoke during the Aug. 13 debate. 

The commission congratulated Minister Panton for his “brave and principled” stand against discrimination, abuse and bullying “in the face of these venomous comments.” 

In a letter sent to Premier McLaughlin on Wednesday, Human Rights Commission Chairman James Austin-Smith invited the premier to condemn “in the strongest possible terms the most unstatesmanlike, inaccurate, vitriolic and thoroughly hateful statements” made during the debate. 

Mr. McLaughlin and representatives of his office were contacted for comment on the commission statements and Mr. Austin-Smith’s request, but the Cayman Compass had received no response from the premier by press time Thursday. 

Those statements, according to Mr. Austin-Smith, included equating homosexuality with bestiality; equating homosexuality with pedophilia; claims that homosexual behavior was “wicked and immoral” and a “social and moral evil”; making personal threats of violence toward homosexuals; and suggesting that “crushing a baby’s skull and sucking their brains out had become a human right.” 

“I was disappointed that not one member [of those present] appears to have challenged statements that were clearly false and, even if not actually calculated to incite hatred, were certainly likely to,” Mr. Austin-Smith wrote to the premier. “Had these statements been made outside the privilege provided by the Legislative Assembly, it is quite likely that they could have constituted the commission of a criminal offense.” 

As he has previously, Mr. Austin-Smith urged the Cayman Islands government to take note of a recent ruling from the European Court of Human Rights that found Italy in breach of established human rights principles for failing to offer enough legal protection to same-sex couples. Italy is one of the few Western European countries that maintains a national ban on same-sex marriage. 

The letter sent to the premier recommended that the government introduce legislation recognizing same-sex unions. Local laws currently forbid gay marriage but are silent regarding the formation of civil unions. 

The government was also urged to introduce laws to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. 

“The time when individuals could be persecuted on the basis of their sexual orientation has now long passed,” Mr. Austin-Smith’s letter to the premier read. The letter sought to receive a response from the premier on the Human Rights Commission’s concerns within seven days.  

Mr. Austin-Smith

Mr. Eden

Mr. Eden


  1. The Cayman Islands has been at a crossroads for some time but is unwilling to decide which way it wants to go. Money and greed have been the deciding factor in many of our decisions and no real discussion was ever had in the past on what we wanted our society to look like in the future and what price we were willing to pay to achieve that vision.
    Mr. Austin Smith is absolutely correct when he recommends that the CIG "take note of a recent ruling from the European Court of Human Rights that found Italy in breach of established human rights principles for failing to offer enough legal protection to same-sex couples."
    We might not like it but I predict that eventually we will have no choice but to accept the things that many people don’t want to accept.

  2. This goes along with the "bloody revolution" and "f..g driftwood" statements that were swept under the rug. No statements condemning hate speech were issued in both cases.

  3. "Bodden Town MLA Alva Suckoo, who seconded Mr. Eden’s motion, said that while he did not wish to “launch an assault on homosexuals,” in his Bible, homosexuality is a sin, and he “shouldn’t be expected to support legislation that would allow sin.”"
    I find this comment ironic. The same bible that Mr. Suckoo refers to also calls the eating of shellfish a sin and an abomination, yet the Legislative Assembly supports laws that allow people to take lobster from the ocean (surely he knows that people take them to eat them, although from Mr. Eden’s comments they may think that people take the lobster from the ocean to marry them). The government also allows divorce, a sin according to Mr. Suckoo’s bible.
    There are countless biblical sins that are widely accepted as societal norms today. I would love for the MLAs to explain why they are comfortable supporting all of those other biblical sins.

  4. I could write a lot about same sex marriage and the ridiculous of it all but will condense it to one fact.
    Remember your biology 101 in school. Male/female, any species with few exceptions (snail world) are needed for reproduction. Two men, two women, living as same sex partners are doomed to extinction. A joining of two same individuals is not a marriage in spite of all the propaganda carefully crafted to give the crazies and those in a state of arrested development, some form of legitimacy. Grow up people.

  5. I think that the government need to be very careful in debating this issue before making any laws, and make sure that what is good for the gees is good for the gander. I see it coming.

  6. Premier McLaughlin is developing a habit of going AWOL when one of his minsters or MLA’s says something objectionable. One might almost think he had no principles at all.

    Time for you to stand up for decency Mr. McLaughlin.

  7. Andrew, married same sex couples can and DO have babies, adoption being just one option. There are surrogate mothers for men and sperm banks for women, so how pray tell can the human race become extinct? That’s ridiculous. Unless of course you follow the thinking of Mr Eden and they just want babies so they can suck their brains out, I’ve been around a long time and that comment just floored me, gay men and women are NOT perverts nor evil, they are people that have fallen in love and just want respect like everyone else. By the way, they are great tippers when I drove a taxi.

  8. Well I will never be accused of fishing for thumbs up, but I don”t feel the need to surf the tsunami of public opinion.
    Not a single human being has the right to say that they are better than anyone else.
    Having said that, I feel that Mr. Austin-Smith”s comments added fuel to a fire that could easily have been extinguished in the atmosphere of forgiveness.
    Mr. Eden merely stated his deep-felt convictions and talking of convictions, of what crime has Mr. Eden been convicted? He has been a well-respected member of the community for many years, even more years than loads of Johnny-come-lately driftwoods (which is exactly what I am).
    Mr. Eden did not advocate violence against any group of people, so inflammatory rhetoric is sorely misplaced.
    Mr. Austin-Smith, with all due respect, I do not think that you would travel to Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan or other non gay-friendly countries and tell them that they are in violation of their long held laws.
    I perceive that you have used your position in the HRC as political leverage.
    For example, several years ago, I contacted the HRC in the Cayman Islands regarding the plight of the Chinese workers in the sweatshops while we were sending our politicians over there to negotiate trade advantages.
    The HRC was ominously quiet on such matters. The suicide rate of Chinese workers in the sweatshops is so high that the workers are now required to sign non-suicide pacts with their employers. Most of the goods we sell are Chinese in origin because we cannot make them cheaply enough. Or governments have driven local enterprise overseas.
    Mr. Austin-Smith, where is the outrage? Why have you mounted the horse of gay rights to ride into town? Why not the downtrodden workers of China (whose government probably holds most of our debt)? Why not the hungry, fly-infested poor of Africa? Why not the Caymanians who are becoming a minority in their own country? Why not the indigenous people who have been displaced by our corrupt governments, Chagos Islanders, anyone? (Before you comment, please know exactly what happened and why).
    No, supporting these lost causes won’t make you rich, nor gain you favour with the architects of the soon-to-come One World Government.
    Perhaps it is time to cut ties with the Lodge and become a lawyer for the truly downtrodden in need of genuine Human Rights?
    At the end of the day, we will all stand before a Holy God to give account of ourselves. I am not as confident as many of my Christian brothers and sisters, but at least I will stand in the faith of Christ claiming His mercy. Life is dreadfully short and there are consequences.
    It is better to be found in the way of truth than the way of politics or man’s law.
    Thank you for your time, sir.
    With respect,
    David Shibli

  9. David Shibli is correct: the Human Rights Commission is overly selective in which causes it champions. It is following in the footsteps of its predecessor, the Human Rights Committee, in carefully avoiding criticism of the systemic exploitation of migrant workers. (And we don’t have to go as far afield as China to find abuses of that kind, do we?)
    Yes, discrimination against homosexuality is a legitimate concern, and warrants criticism. But where was the Commission during the "driftwood" furore? Why was it silent then?

  10. What I find so funny, is that one can call you out in their comments in the Cayman Compass and get no response, but other media where you don’t need to use your real name, you will get all kind of response to your comment. Again I think that the word poisonous and treasonous has some thing in common, you know who said it.

  11. Yes Mr Barlow and Mr. Shibli, you are both right, but why some issues get priority attention is because some people if it is not contributing to their agenda, it’s not important to them. That’s why on any board you have to have the right people to be fair and balance of all issues.

  12. Disagreement with the LGBT is hate speech.
    Disagreeing with teaching children three sexual orientation in schools is hate speech. How dare us to indoctrinate our own children!
    Protecting marriage being holy matrimony between one man and one woman is hate speech.
    Being and promoting the virtues of Christianity is hate speech.
    Protecting the Christian heritage of Cayman is hate speech.
    Opposing abortions, partial birth abortions, even talking about abortion is hate speech.
    Basically, opposing any of this imported extreme liberalism from the UK, Metropolitan USA, Europe and the atheist communities at large is hate speech.
    How about this, Mr. Austin-Smith, you and the HRC can stick it.

  13. @AJ Ebanks
    Calling LGBT wicked is an act of grave evil. Using your religion to pretend your actions are the will of the gods is both evil and blasphemous. Forsaking your duty to your countrymen by bringing shame and rightful contempt upon your country is craven. Anthony Eden is a villain, and it is to our embarrassment that he represents the Cayman Islands.

  14. I am not religious but do not believe that marriage should be extended to non-heterosexual couples. I have lived in the UK and Canada and this campaign for rights in the end turns into a campaign for normalization and overt, forced celebration.
    The gay pride month in Toronto is a Canadian national embarrassment but any politician or public figure that speaks out about has their career ruined by the media.
    There are specific anti-gay bullying laws in Canada that only apply to gay school children and they have become a legally protected class with rights and protections that do not apply to the rest of the population.
    I am very tolerant of what people do in private. And gay marriage in theory should be a good thing for society. However, many examples around the world show that it is not.

  15. Dear Mr Eden and Mr Suckoo:

    Thank you for doing so much to educate the people of Cayman regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from our gifted MLAs, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.

    I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s Laws and how to follow them.

    1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighbouring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Cubans, but not Jamaicans. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Jamaicans?

    2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

    3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness – Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offence.

    4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odour for the Lord – Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbours. They claim the odour is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

    5. I have a neighbour who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the RCIPS to do it?

    6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination, Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there ”degrees” of abomination?

    7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

    8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

    9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

    10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

    I know you both have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I’m confident you can help.

    Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

    Your adoring fan,

  16. My suggestion would be that the Government of the Cayman Islands stand firm on what is "The right thing"
    Cows may come and cows may go but the Bull stays on.
    Without bowing to anyone, exercise your thoughts on what is right.