Bodden Town MLA Alva Suckoo said Friday that he “was not attacking anyone for their sexuality” during a two-hour Legislative Assembly debate earlier this month in which members discussed the definition of marriage.
“I do not condone discrimination of any kind, including against homosexuals, and [Cayman Islands Human Rights Commission Chairman James] Austin-Smith needs to stop sensationalizing the issue … as he seems to have a political agenda in my opinion,” Mr. Suckoo said in an emailed response to Cayman Compass questions. “I apologize to anyone who may have been offended by my remarks. It was not my intention, nor will it ever be, to use language which some may find offensive.”
Contacted for further comment about his remarks in the House debate on a private members’ motion which sought to confirm the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, Bodden Town MLA Anthony Eden said he would not respond “at this time.”
The two Bodden Town representatives, in particular, came under fire following the Aug. 13 debate on the members’ motion filed by Mr. Eden and seconded by Mr. Suckoo. The response to the MLAs’ comments intensified late last week when the Human Rights Commission issued a press release denouncing certain statements made in the debate as “hate speech” and “threatening” to the local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
The statements that so enraged Mr. Austin-Smith and commission members were mostly attributed to Mr. Eden – one of the longest-serving and most respected members of the Legislative Assembly. The statements 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,” Mr. Austin-Smith alleged.
In addition to the press release, Mr. Austin-Smith sent a two-page letter to Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin demanding that Mr. McLaughlin reject the comments made by backbench members of his own Progressives political party and that the government enact laws creating civil unions for the benefit of same-sex couples. The Human Rights Commission chairman gave Mr. McLaughlin a deadline of seven days within which to do so.
Neither Mr. McLaughlin nor representatives of his office responded to repeated requests to comment on the issue sent by the Compass on Thursday and Friday.
Mr. Suckoo, a first-term MLA, said his comments clarifying his stance in the debate were not an attempt to “distance himself” from his Bodden Town colleagues.
“Mr. Eden made his points and I support and defend his right to do so on the floor of the house,” Mr. Suckoo said. “I also support and respect the Hon. Wayne Panton for his position and subsequent comments.”
Mr. Panton, who did not participate in the House debate on Aug. 13, later made press statements indicating he did not support bullying and discrimination against members of Cayman’s homosexual community. Mr. Austin-Smith congratulated Mr. Panton for his “bold and brave” comments.
Mr. Suckoo also took issue with the Human Rights Commission’s “broad accusations” concerning the Legislative Assembly debate and noted that the commission appeared to be quite selective regarding the human rights causes it sought to champion.
“Perhaps he can also write a letter about the growing issue of families losing their homes due to … the inability to secure employment because of the unscrupulous and illegal hiring practices of persons in the same industry that Mr. Austin-Smith has made his fortune,” Mr. Suckoo said. “Perhaps he can write a letter about the growing concerns that migrant workers and Caymanians are now living in substandard, unhealthy and inadequate housing …. Why doesn’t he write a letter about the high incidence of spousal abuse suffered by our women, or how foreign dead-beat fathers here as permanent residents have abandoned their Caymanian wives and children and left them to the mercy of the world after getting residency?
“It is a bit suspicious that Mr. Austin-Smith now feels compelled to attack my parliamentary privilege and is using this issue to do so when he has been quite silent on the much larger issues.”
Mr. Austin-Smith said it was the commission’s objective to encourage Cayman to change certain laws that may run it afoul of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The letter sent to the premier last week 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.