Law professor condemns UK silence on gay 'hate speech'

Leonardo Raznovich speaks to International Bar Association

The professor at the center of a gay rights case in the Cayman Islands told a conference for international lawyers that he believes the United Kingdom is failing to meet its responsibilities with respect to human rights for homosexuals in the Overseas Territories. 

Leonardo Raznovich, speaking at the International Bar Association’s annual conference in Vienna on Thursday, said U.K. officials had failed to publicly condemn a speech from Bodden Town legislator Anthony Eden in the Legislative Assembly. 

The speech, in which Mr. Eden described homosexuality as a “social and moral evil” and drew comparisons with pedophilia and bestiality, was criticized by Cayman’s Human Rights Commission, as a “poisonous hate speech.” 

Mr. Raznovich said he was disappointed that both the Cayman Islands government and the U.K. had, up to now, remained silent on the issue. 

Asked for comment on Friday, the Cayman Islands Governor’s Office did not address Mr. Eden’s remarks directly. 

Joanne Vaughan, policy adviser in the Governor’s Office, said “The U.K. supports equal treatment for LGBT people and works to promote non-discrimination of LGBT people across the world. The U.K. condemns any discriminatory and offensive remarks.” 

The former Truman Bodden Law School professor, who is fighting to have his same-sex marriage recognized by Cayman’s immigration authorities, also highlighted numerous discrepancies between Cayman’s laws and the European Convention of Human Rights in reference to homosexuals, in his speech at the conference. 

He said the message had been well received by the association, which was interested in setting up a task force to examine London’s role in the territories and across the Commonwealth in relation to human rights for lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender individuals. 

He said members of the association were particularly concerned about the lack of response from the U.K. government to Mr. Eden’s speech, delivered on Aug. 13 in support of his private members’ motion which sought to confirm the definition of marriage in the Cayman Islands as between one man and one woman. “They were very surprised by the lack of reaction from London to what was a medieval speech,” said Mr. Raznovich. 

“London has done nothing in relation to a member of the Legislative Assembly in one of its territories making that kind of speech and doing so behind parliamentary immunity. 

“They should have, I think, made some statement similar to the Human Rights Commission and, at the very least, say that the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) condemns those words.” 

Mr. Raznovich said the bar association has a powerful voice, not just to lobby governments but potentially to enlist law firms to help fight test cases challenging discriminatory legislation. A number of laws in the Cayman Islands, and other territories, have been highlighted as breaches of rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights, which extends to the British territories. 

The Cayman Islands 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. 

Mr. Raznovich, who was married in Argentina in 2012, is involved in one such case. His partner has lodged an appeal against the Immigration Department’s Business Staffing Plan Board’s decision that it could not accommodate a request for Mr. Raznovich to be listed as a dependent on his work permit, an application routinely approved for couples of opposite sex. 

Mr. Raznovich said he was confident that his own appeal would be successful. 

But he said it would not help gay Caymanians achieve legal recognition for their same-sex partnerships and believes more direct action is needed. He said if the Cayman Islands government or the U.K. government did not step in to make changes, it would be down to individuals to fight discriminatory legislation in the courts on a case-by-case basis. 

Ms. Vaughan added, “Whilst the legal framework for LGBT people in the Cayman Islands is primarily a matter for the Cayman Islands Government, under international law, the U.K. government is responsible for ensuring the compliance of the Cayman Islands with its international human rights obligations, including the ECHR. 

“The U.K. government seeks to ensure that all OTs act in accordance with their international human rights obligations and strongly encourages all British Overseas Territories to pursue policies and enact legislation, guaranteeing LGBT rights and freedom from discrimination.” 

Mr. Raznovich

Mr. Raznovich
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  1. Homosexuality is most likely the result of developmental abnormalities. In fact, research has shown that exposure to hormones in early development can influence gender identity and behaviour. As such, the comparison between homosexuality and pedophilia might not be so far off as it is very possible that both conditions are the result of developmental abnormalities. This does not mean that homosexuals should be discriminated against but I think it would be a bit of a stretch to consider homosexuals as normal people just like we would not consider pedophiles to be normal.

    Gender is not a social construct!

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  2. @ Mack Boland
    How about variation of normal? Do you happen to know what forces are behind Earth spinning in perfect proximity to other planets or the Sun rising up every morning without a fail? Or the Sahara desert fertilizing Amazon forests with its dust? Or the Antarctic circumpolar current that cools ocean? No? Then why you are so sure about developmental abnormalities? What is normal by the way? An abstract concept existing only in our minds. May be everything and everyone here is by design?
    Why everyone insists on conformity? All of religious battles, wars and global conflicts are over determination to promote sameness.

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  3. Mr Anthony Eden”s speech may infuriate, and anger many folks, BUT he has a right to say as he feels. If you take such a right away, then you are denying free speech. That is even worse. That is at the heart of the issue. There are many who do not agree with same sex marriage, whether legal or not. Remember, freedom allows people to think and say as they wish, even if the content of the words are reprehensible.

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  4. @L. Bell:

    Should everything then just be a variation of normal? If so, then what would be abnormal?

    Normal is something that is usual or typical and most of the examples mentioned in your comment would fall into that category. Homosexuality on the other hand is not usual or typical and in fact it could be deemed to go against the very nature of human existence as it can’t under natural conditions result in the continuation of our existence.

    Some people are born without hands, some without legs, and we do not consider that to be normal. That being said we should not discriminate against anyone because of any abnormality but instead should try to help them as much as possible to be all that they can be.

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  5. @ Lukishi Brown

    Mr Eden does not have the right to say as he feels, that is exactly the point. It is being suggested that what he said is defined as being ”Hate Speech”

    Under UK law (on which our laws are based)”Expressions of hatred toward someone on account of that person”s (…) sexual orientation is forbidden. Any communication which is threatening or abusive, and is intended to harass, alarm, or distress someone is forbidden. The penalties for hate speech include fines, imprisonment, or both.”

    As an elected official he should know this. I am a strong believer in Free Speech, but not when it becomes Hate Speech, the question of course is ”when is this line crossed?”

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  6. @James Adam: is there a absolute privilege for M.P.s in the case of the House of Commons, and M.L.A.s in the case of our Legislative Assembly to freely express themselves by debates when Parliament is in Session? And whatever is is said in debates in Parliament cannot be impeached or questioned in any courts or place outside parliament?. Unless such words or debate amounts to Treason? I don’t know .I am just asking. It seems that I have read that somewhere. I do not know is this Parliamentary Priviledge has been repealed.

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  7. Mack,

    I am very sad looking at your first comment. More than 140 people actually think that people with abnormalities are OK to be discriminated against and the only way we can save gay people from that fate is to bend rules of logic (or defy laws of Earth spinning) and proclaim their condition normal. It’s a pity that we can’t do the same for lots of other people with illnesses and disabilities and they are bound to be discriminated against.

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