Fallout spreads from Mr. Eden’s intemperate remarks

Anthony Eden’s remarks on the floor of the Legislative Assembly regarding homosexuality could not have been more ill-conceived – but they were also ill-timed.

Today, the United Nations Security Council is holding its first meeting dedicated to the persecution of those in the LGBT community.

The meeting follows President Barack Obama’s recent trip to Kenya (where homosexuality is punishable by up to 14 years in prison). Mr. Obama publicly told the Kenyan president, “The state should not discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation. The idea that they are going to be treated differently or abused because of who they love is wrong. Full stop.”

Many of us on the day of Mr. Eden’s mid-summer, mid-week monologue, frankly, never saw it coming. Even at the Cayman Compass, where we pay attention to all matters in the Legislative Assembly, we had no premonition of what was to disrupt a relatively placid Wednesday news day.

We do, however, at all times keep a newsroom television tuned to the government channel which broadcasts live the proceedings of the Legislative Assembly, and a growing group of reporters and editors quickly gathered round. Soon all of us were transfixed.

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We were not the only ones; in no time, what a decade or so ago would have been a local story was being recounted in blogs and other “immediate media” around the world. It appears that Mr. Eden did not take into account how his words might reverberate beyond our borders and offend, in particular, a large and sensitive segment of tourists – the homosexual community – who daily visit our shores and routinely are welcomed and treated well here.

Moses Kirkconnell, our minister of tourism, has been mum on Mr. Eden’s remarks, but we cannot imagine he was pleased. Pity our poor premier, Alden McLaughlin, who, perhaps not courageously but possibly wisely, absented himself from both the debate and the vote on Mr. Eden’s resolution (which reaffirmed the Constitutional protection that marriage in the Cayman Islands was between a man and a woman).

Now Mr. McLaughlin and the Progressives party he leads have a problem he probably didn’t foresee and certainly doesn’t welcome. Because the Progressives-led government is a patchwork of dissimilar representatives from diverse districts (united more by convenience than conviction), he somehow must find a way to keep harmony among disagreeing, and sometimes disagreeable, members. This will not be easy.

Bodden Town, not for the first time, presents the challenge. As everyone knows, Mr. Eden is the senior (and popular) representative from that district. Nevertheless, a junior member of the Bodden Town delegation, Wayne Panton, has now stepped forward to take issue with his colleague’s remarks. Another Bodden Town member, Alva Suckoo, (who seconded Mr. Eden’s motion), has issued a statement, in effect supporting Mr. Eden but apologizing to, well, everybody if he has offended anyone.

Mr. Suckoo took particular umbrage at the Human Rights Commission and, in particular, its chairman, James Austin-Smith. The Commission on Thursday issued a statement condemning the use of elected office “to peddle inaccurate, vitriolic and thoroughly hateful information” concerning the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

If this were not enough, Olivia Connolly, the organizer of a lecture series on gender rights held in January, on Friday disseminated an open letter defending the focus of the series. Ms. Connolly, who is president of the Truman Bodden Law School Student Society, is the daughter of Cayman Governor Helen Kilpatrick, who spoke at the conference.

Because this is such a contentious, and momentous, issue, it is tempting, but unwise, to conflate Mr. Eden’s position on gay marriage, which is defensible, with his inflammatory rhetoric, which is not.

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  1. Any number of people are born with genetic defects that make them different from what society considers normal. While it is understandable that the society should never be forced to accept the abnormal as something that is normal it is equally important that there is no hate directed at any individual or group.

  2. Mr. Boland — are you suggesting that homosexuality is a genetic defect?

    I would disagree with your statement that society should not be forced to accept the abnormal, as you put it. Let’s take the obvious example of a genetic defect — someone born autistic or with downs syndrome. Are you saying that society should not be forced to accept these abnormal people with special needs? As for homosexuals, why shouldn’t society accept them? No one is saying that you have to gay-marry someone, but why should they not be given the same rights as everyone else? Does it affect you at all if two gay men (or two gay women) get married? I’d be interested to know how you think it does.

    It is admirable that you note that there should be no hate directed toward people, but i’m not sure that saying gay people are genetically defective is hate-free. Just because someone engages in an action that conflicts with one line in a book written 2,000 years ago (let’s not forget that Jesus himself doesn’t say anything about homosexuality being wrong, and it is not in violation of the ten commandments), it does not mean that person is genetically defective.

  3. Quote:

    "It is admirable that you note that there should be no hate directed toward people, but i’m not sure that saying gay people are genetically defective is hate-free."

    You should be sure, otherwise saying that people are suffering from autism because of genetical defect is also based on hate, which is hopefully not.

    I don’t like when bible gets involved. Simple truth – and not a point for discrimination against – is that being 100% gay does not meet the definition of life, so it can’t be considered a normal functioning of the human organism. No bible involved. Of course it is not the only problem which can prevent normal functioning of human body, so it must never be subject of discrimination against. Of course gay people must have equal rights to do what they want with it – live their life as they want (which includes having some form of legal union with rights equal to marriage. Whether it should be called marriage is up to debate – gay community could get the same outcome much easier if they didn’t insist on using this specific word) or any other option, including trying to be treated. They can’t do it now, because it is considered to be betrayal to LGBT community. I am not discussing here if it’s possible to be treated – maybe not, but important is that they don’t have option to try.

    What does not work well with these approach to problem is the way it is treated now as normal way of life, as it is provided in communication with teenagers. They should be told that if they have this kind of problem they should not feel alienated and that they can happily enjoy life being slightly different in this respect. But they should not be told that it’s just another normal way to live life so try both before making final decision. This is the way it is presented now.

    We also have issue of positive discrimination (like gay-approved suppliers, gay people getting more rights because of this status) which should be dealt with the same way as people deal with discrimination against gay people. The only way to stop discrimination is to stop discrimination.

  4. Who is the judge here? Normal is just a concept, an abstract idea.
    They have driving impulses that are different from what everybody else EXPECTS them to have. This is it. They are wired differently. This is called diversity, not a genetic defect. Diversity is your friend, not an enemy. They are normal as anyone who is not LGBT.
    Diversity is the platform from which all evolutions springs forth. And I don’t think we have mental or physical capacity to understand evolution. We have not even scratched the surface of its understanding.
    We call autistic people abnormal, but their intelligence is far superior to ours, they communicate on an advanced level,which we don’t understand and try to convert them, re-wire to the primitive level of communication (speech) we understand.
    Are they an error or the next step in the evolution of human species? Design of which we would never figure out.
    Every single cell in a human body contains a copy of the master DNA blueprint. Isn’t it the greatest mystery of our existence?
    Don’t bring the science into this. Science explains nothing;it can only describe. Science can prove nothing; it can only verify or disprove. Science is an intellectual left-brain process dependent upon the (just) FIVE!!! physical senses.

  5. Mr. Zoholnin — you say "Simple truth – and not a point for discrimination against – is that being 100% gay does not meet the definition of life, so it can’t be considered a normal functioning of the human organism."

    Can you please explain this? What is the definition of life, and what is your source for this definition? Are you saying that a gay person is not alive or somehow is not a "life"?

  6. @Steven White:

    Thank you for the feedback. It is important that you quote my full statement so that things are not taken out of context.

    I said "….should never be forced to accept the abnormal as something that is normal."

    What you would have understood if you had taken the time to read my full statement is that I fully agree that society should accept someone that was born autistic but I don’t think we should go around trying to pretend that the autistic person is normal. This does not mean that we should discriminate against autistic people but we need to simply accept the fact as they, like LGBT people, are not normal. It is only when we can accept the fact that people with genetic defects are not that we can work on getting those people the medical care or other help that they need and deserve.

    Nowhere in my previous comment did I mention anything about a book that was written 2000 years ago and even without any book it should be easy for most people to understand that the laws of nature and natural survival dictate that men were not made to be with men and women were not made to be with women.

  7. Mr. Wohite,

    Life is described by 7 main features (you can go on wikipedia to doublecheck):

    – Homeostatis
    – Organization
    – Metabolism
    – Growth
    – Adaptation
    – Response to stimuli
    – Procreation

    No, it doesn’t mean that gay people is not life – I feel hate in that part of your comment. It just means that you can’t drop one of 7 main features of life and say that this is normal and it’s just because something was wired differently. It is not normal. Just like many-many other things which can happen to humans, both inborn and during their life.

    And it is not point for discrimination. If you feel that saying that gay people are not normal is discrimination, I feel very sorry for many-many other people who have some disabilities or dysfunctions and who you discriminate against by assuming that being non-normal is bad. Would you call having diabetes normal? If it is not normal, does it make people suffering from diabetes inferior?

  8. Is homosexuality compatible with evolution? an orientation that appears so inimical to reproduction nevertheless persist in human populations?
    Here are just one idea to expand our limited perspective on homosexuality.
    Think of homosexuality as a natural form of birth control. This planet is overpopulated after all. Homosexuality isn’t hurting our population or our ability to procreate and survive. May be it is a product of the fact that humans have reached a point in space and time where many of us no longer are trying to "survive" . Evolutionary success depends on two components, survival and reproduction. Survival comes first because without it reproduction is impossible. As a parent (until recently) it was hard to predict which of your children would survive into adulthood. So you just had as many as you could. As we evolve and feel less of a need to procreate and just “survive".

    If you deny marriage to homosexuals due to inability to reproduce you must also deny it to heterosexual couples too old to reproduce, couples who are infertile, and couples who choose not to have children.

  9. Mr Zholnin – I don’t understand your point about main features of life. I assume when you talk about the 7 main features of life, you are referring to procreation?

    I suppose what is confusing to me is that you appear to think that gays don’t have the ability to procreate. They do. Gay men act as sperm donors. Gay women use artificial insemination or donor sperm. Just to be perfectly clear, gay people are 100% able to procreate. You can go on Wikipedia and check.

    Gays may have preferences that don’t promote procreation, but so do many straight people. If a straight person doesn’t want kids and makes the conscious choice not to procreate, do they not satisfy the main features of life?

    Just to be clear, you don’t feel any hate from me, and there is no hate in my responses. You seem to be trying to have a factual discussion, and I am trying to do the same. I just think you have a fundamental misunderstanding about the ability of gay people to procreate, and I’m trying to get to the bottom of it.

  10. Mr White,

    Thanks for opportunity.
    Ability to procreate means the whole process – from beginning to end. If gay person feels disgust to having sex with member of opposite sex – they cannot start. Yes, the reason is merely psychological, not biological, but that doesn’t make it somehow different – they can not procreate normally.

    Donating sperm is something provided by science and it is good overall – there are even advances in merging two female cells together, so lesbian couples would soon be able to have real offspring with their own combined DNA. But this is something done artificially.

    Like in my analogy with diabetes – diabetes is also failure in one of features of life, this time not procreation, but metabolism or homeostasis (depending on how you look at it). This is sad abnormal condition. It can be fixed by providing artificially produced insulin. This is blessing for people affected – but it does not make their condition normal. Same with gay people – there are ways to get around, but it doesn’t make their condition normal.

    Straight person not wanting kids just because they don’t want to (kids free movement) is not normal, but again – it’s their choice, so not basis for discrimination.

    I hope you see that I am liberal (so my comments don’t get any support from Bible-driven people) but at the same time I am trying to prove that being gay is not normal, so I get lots of hate from both ends.

    I am fine with gay people, providing them with same rights as straight people. My concerns are in following areas:
    – properly presenting the whole thing to youngsters – humanity is failing here.
    – disallow discrimination against straight people the same way as against gay people – again, failing here. Just because e.g. you can give benefits to companies who employ gay people, but you can’t give benefits to companies who employ straight people. I think both should be banned and sex orientation should not even be mention in such areas as business, job hunting and so on.

  11. Any parent of an adolescent child who wonders about that childs sexual orientation, hopefully soon realizes their love is unconditional.

    Despite perhaps not wanting their child to undergo a lifetime of discrimination associated with being gay, the majority become, as I did, more tolerant, regardless of the outcome.

    Slowly, this experience will change the world.

    Sadly, not soon enough in the Cayman Islands.