Here in Cayman, two groups have coalesced in regard to the topic: Those who are adamantly against same-sex marriage, civil unions or even nominal changes to the status quo — and, on the other side, everyone else.
The former group almost certainly constitutes the majority of Caymanian voters. The chasm separating the two sides is abyssal.
For example, consider the recent exchange of letters between Premier Alden McLaughlin and Human Rights Commission Chairman James Austin-Smith. While the tone of the correspondence is unfailingly civil (for that, we give the two gentlemen credit), it is obvious from the content that there could be no greater distance between Premier McLaughlin and Mr. Austin-Smith on this subject.
Premier McLaughlin is firmly on the side of Bodden Town MLA Anthony Eden (whose fiery denunciations of homosexuality have made headlines) and the maintenance of existing legal arrangements, and Mr. Austin-Smith is on the other.
Mr. Austin-Smith’s commission has given three recommendations to the Progressives government, all of which Premier McLaughlin has either refused or ignored.
The commission’s first recommendation was the introduction of legislation to recognize same-sex civil unions. Second, that the government outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Here’s the obvious truth: No elected government in Cayman, in the foreseeable future, will on its own volition attempt to legalize same-sex civil unions (or marriages) in this country. Judging by their remarks on the House floor, not only do most lawmakers personally disagree with same-sex marriage (or any step in that direction), but the prevailing popular consensus against same-sex marriage would make such an action political suicide. For similar reasons, there is probably little more appetite among our politicians to pursue anti-discrimination ordinances targeting a person’s sexual orientation.
Mr. Austin-Smith argues that in the event of a challenge to Cayman’s laws, the European Court of Human Rights would almost certainly rule against Cayman. That is possible. However, even if that does happen, we would expect Cayman’s authorities to resist taking any responsive action until and unless the U.K. steps in and forces these islands to do so.
Third, the commission recommended that Premier McLaughlin condemn “in the strongest possible terms” the language employed by Mr. Eden on the House floor, where he described homosexuality as, in a word, “evil.”
Here we are in agreement with Mr. Austin-Smith. As we have written in previous editorials, Mr. Eden has conducted himself in a manner that is unacceptable for an elected representative. Particularly when he called for Mr. Austin-Smith’s dismissal from his appointed position, based on religious beliefs (or lack thereof), Mr. Eden ran afoul of sacrosanct protections enshrined in Cayman’s Constitution.
It behooves Premier McLaughlin, and each responsible member of government, to take Mr. Eden to task for his regrettable remarks. Thus far, the silence has been deafening — but telling.
That is not to say we are in accordance with everything Mr. Austin-Smith says or does. Certainly not. We question why gay rights has ascended to cause célèbre status, amid the litany of potential human rights violations that occur systematically in Cayman on a daily basis.
Where, for example, was Mr. Austin-Smith when the government passed its motion financially punishing this newspaper for expressing our opinion against corruption in Cayman? Had not Mr. Austin-Smith even read the Cayman Constitution’s Bill of Rights which enshrines the right of free speech and protects those who practice it from political retribution?
Where does the commission stand on the issue of police eavesdropping on private citizens’ telecommunications?
What about the hundreds of people whose immigration status remains in limbo while the government dithers on their permanent residence applications? Or the thousands of people in Cayman who are denied the most basic right of political representation?
We are deeply concerned any time when a governmental appointee appears to be prioritizing his or her public agenda based on personal priorities or beliefs, a practice Mr. Austin-Smith would be well-advised to avoid.