Gay couple challenge Immigration decision

Gay couple challenge Immigration decision

A gay law professor and his husband are at the center of a possible test case, challenging the “unequal” treatment of homosexual couples in the Cayman Islands. 

Leonardo Raznovich, who helped students at the Truman Bodden Law School organize a series of public lectures on human rights, including rights for homosexuals, was told in June that his contract with the college was not being renewed. 

His British partner of 16 years has submitted an application to have Mr. Raznovich listed as a dependent on his work permit. 

The Immigration Board indicated it did not have the power to accommodate the request, routinely approved for married couples of a different sex. Now the lecturer faces the prospect of being deported. 

Mr. Raznovich and his partner, who were married in his home country of Argentina in 2012, plan to appeal the decision on the grounds that the differing treatment of same-sex couples is discriminatory. 

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Mr. Raznovich said he hoped government would “do the right thing” and move to address the situation without it going to court. 

“If they go to court, what are they going to say? We want to discriminate against gay guys? 

“The decent thing to do would be to remedy what the Immigration Board has highlighted, that there is no statutory framework to deal with these kind of applications.” 

He said the European Court of Human Rights has already established that homosexual couples must be treated the same, in terms of their legal rights, as other married couples. 

The court’s decisions extend to Cayman because of its territorial relationship with the U.K., meaning any appeal through the courts would likely be successful. 

He has written to Attorney General Samuel Bulgin, urging him to address the situation and rectify Cayman’s laws to comply with the convention. As a lecturer at the law school, Mr. Raznovich was a government employee and part of the Attorney General’s Chambers. 

The Immigration Board in its decision on the application from Mr. Raznovich’s partner, dated Aug. 26 and posted on a section of its website accessible to the applicant’s employer, wrote: “Due to the existing statutory framework, there is no specific provision(s) that would enable the CIO/Board to accommodate this request.” 

Mr. Raznovich said the couple were waiting for the Immigration Board to confirm, in writing, that its apparent inability to deal with his application amounted to a de-facto rejection of the request, before formally launching an appeal. 

In a significant decision in July, the European court ruled that Italy was in breach of its obligations under the European Convention of Human Rights because it did not have a statutory framework ensuring equal treatment for same-sex couples. 

Commenting on that decision, James Austin-Smith, chairman of the Cayman Islands Human Rights Commission, said government needs to amend its laws or risk a successful legal challenge. 

He said government has an obligation to “provide same-sex couples in stable relationships with the opportunity to access the same rights and obligations which married couples enjoy.” 

The Human Rights Commission has recommended legal recognition of same-sex unions, though not necessarily gay marriage. This would serve to protect a number of rights and obligations that married couples have, including laws regarding financial support, child maintenance payments, inheritance and immigration. 

The situation Mr. Raznovich is now facing was first brought to public attention in the public lecture series he helped to organize. 

Visiting Professor Robert Wintemute of King’s College London, speaking at the lecture series in January, said several of Cayman’s laws and policies were out of step with the European Convention. 

One such right, already established under the convention and therefore guaranteed to Cayman residents and citizens, is the right for same-sex partners to be treated the same as a married couple for immigration purposes, he told the Cayman Compass at the time. He said the Cayman Islands needs to change its Immigration Law to reflect this. 

Mr. Raznovich, in his letter to the attorney general, raises the same point and highlights the Italian case as evidence that case law on the issue is already established. 

“Without prejudice to any challenge to the legality of the Immigration Board’s decision in the particular circumstances in question, I hereby formally bring to your attention that the lack of legislation, as declared by the Immigration Authority, needs to be urgently redressed in order to prevent the Cayman Islands from continuing to breach the rule of law. 

“If this situation is not rectified, when challenged in the courts, the applicant will ultimately be successful.” 

Mr. Raznovich said his situation related to just one aspect of Cayman Islands law, where homosexual couples were treated differently. 

“As it stands, if I am dying in hospital and a decision has to be taken on whether to turn off the machine, they will call my mother in Argentina, not my husband and partner of 16 years.” 

Mr. Wintemute, in his lecture, said Cayman needs to either address the issues with a package of reforms or risk having it done for them by the U.K. or through a series of court decisions. He said, “It is difficult, if no one brings a case to the court, so there is no pressure from the courts and the political parties don’t see it as a priority, so nothing happens in the legislature.” 

Neither Attorney General Bulgin nor Premier Alden McLaughlin responded to requests for comment by press time on Wednesday. 

Leonardo Raznovich, at the Truman Bodden Law School lecture earlier this year which he helped organize. - Photo: James Whittaker

Leonardo Raznovich, at the Truman Bodden Law School lecture earlier this year which he helped organize. – Photo: James Whittaker
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  1. Of course all people should be treated equally by the Cayman Islands Government. This is such a simple statement that it is astounding that it has not been answered by relevant laws long ago.

    The Government should step forward, make the appropriate changes to the appropriate laws and move on.

    There are so many real issues Government needs to address, it is sad our "leaders" are stuck in people’s bedrooms.

    Change the laws, the rules, the "framework" and move on. Period, case closed, and save the people lots of time and money fighting this in court.

  2. Maybe this is where the rubber hits the road for the Cayman Islands.

    How will the country reconcile the constitutional definition of marriage against the European Convention and the UK’s strong support of everything LGBT? At the end of the day is the constitution nothing more than a meaningless piece of paper? How are people with genetic abnormalities protected by the constitution and what protections should be available to those people? If it is generally accepted that consenting adults should be able to enter into any type of relationship they desire then why not accept relationships with one man and two women, one woman and three men, etc. etc. The key should be that they are all consenting adults, right?

  3. As deep seeded as Cayman is with its religious beliefs, it is just a matter of time before it too will see the light.

    These two individuals have the right to be a couple as much as anybody does. We are all created equal and discrimination based on color, creed, sexual orientation or any other matter, has no place in the laws of the land.

    Christians have the belief that marriage is a joining together of a man and woman and there is no other way. This is a legal issue and not a religious one.

  4. I wonder if people in Cayman who believe in God, know that there is a curse that follows the involvement in this. Check the road map. People who are Gay, we must not refuse to love, but we cannot allow the devil to get credit for any sin.
    One thing God has promised is that, there will be consequences to pay in what we do, and if we do not believe that is true, check the road map again, you may be lost.

  5. I wonder if Caymans leaders now realize that they really need to think before they speak. With so many consultants being hired you would think they would have a team to help them manage what comes out of their mouths.

    In the long run the LGBT community might in a big part have Anthony Eden to thank for them gaining the rights they desire in Cayman. His statements brought more attention to their cause than anything else, it also made people more sensitive to their plight.

    It is highly likely that his statements will have the opposite effect of what his goals were and be the catalyst to changes that may not have happened had he not brought so much attention to this issue.

    A special thanks should go out to him during the first same sex marriage in Cayman.

    How ironic that would be.

  6. … you would think they would have a team to help them manage what comes out of their mouths….
    LOL Michael, a good one.

    My guess is -not until new generation steps in and old boy’s club members retire. In today’s world a word spoken to one is spoken to everybody, in real time. They have not grasped it yet.

    But there is one particular member that remains silent no matter what. How do you interpret that?

  7. Two questions are on my mind after reading the postings below.

    1: Where is the Premier and the Governor on this matter? Why are they not leading the nation to greater equality rather than sitting in silence? Isn’t the Governor supposed to offer consul from the Crown? Are they both too busy driving around in the Governor’s taxpayer-paid-for Jaguar?

    2: Why was the contract of the Professor not renewed? Is it because he of this very matter, despite sure to come government assertions to the contrary?

    The smart, right, correct, and ethical thing to do is obvious: provide equality for ALL in Cayman. Change the necessary legislation NOW, rather than dragging it out through the courts which will lead to the same same result anyway.

    Doesn’t Cayman realize the world is watching?

  8. Wow! Talk about "Tha deh match"! A legal expert who knows the law, who has worked within the Cayman Islands legal framework, AND who has a personal reason to challenge the system? If this doesn’t foretell change "soon come", then nothing will. Almost anyone else would probably have to hang his head and leave quietly. But Mr. Raznovich is the perfect storm that many in Cayman feared would come. Good on you sir! And know that MANY straight Caymanians detest discrimination.