The debate over the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the Cayman Islands is heating up again.
In the lead-up to this weekend’s “Queering Paradigms” symposium, where speakers from around the world will gather to discuss social injustices faced by LGBT people, politicians and ministers are arguing against what they see as an affront to traditional religious values.
Members of the opposition, including leader McKeeva Bush, criticized the upcoming conference and the efforts of those trying to change Cayman’s immigration law to recognize same-sex unions, during the budget debate in the Legislative Assembly last week.
Mr. Bush said that while his party “supports human rights” and that he does not care what people do in their private lives, “we are not willing to change our culture and fly in the face of our laws.”
“I [am not] going to change any law to satisfy their agenda, when it’s not what I think the majority of people … want and I don’t have a mandate for,” Mr. Bush said.
He suggested that Cayman have a referendum on the issue of same-sex unions, as Bermuda plans to do, if the jurisdiction is “being pushed” to accept them.
Mr. Bush also criticized what he viewed as Governor Helen Kilpatrick’s support of the conference.
“I ponder why is the governor taking her precious time to give credence and stir up more controversy, opening now the LGBT conference,” he said.
Governor Kilpatrick is not opening or speaking at the conference, which will be held June 11 and 12, according to Leonardo Raznovich, one of the organizers. The governor attended a dinner fundraiser for the symposium in April, and her daughter, Olivia Connolly, is one of the organizers of the symposium, but the governor has otherwise not been involved with the event.
Bodden Town MLA Anthony Eden, who resigned from the People’s Progressive Movement party last year in the wake of the premier’s announcement that immigration regulations would be amended to recognize dependents in same-sex unions, also spoke out against the conference and the push to recognize same-sex unions, during his speech to the House last week.
He said he was “stunned” by the news that Cayman would be hosting the Queering Paradigms conference.
“We all can talk about human rights. There’s only one right … and he reigns on high,” Mr. Eden said.
He said that all of the opposition members recently met with the executive of the Cayman Islands Ministers Association and also with the Seventh-day Adventist pastors “to express our concerns of foreign elements seeming to want us to change our marriage law and constitution to allow same-sex marriage or unions, whatever they want to call it,” and that the pastors have “indicated their strong objection and that they will actively resist any change to our culture and our lifestyle that we have lived for over the last 500 years.”
Torrance Bobb, chairman of the Cayman Ministers Association, told the Cayman Compass that the group is not planning any protests against the symposium, but that the association would continue to speak out against anything that “does not support traditional marriage” or “traditional family values.”
“We believe that marriage is a God-given, God-ordained institution and that marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman,” Mr. Bobb said. “We are concerned about anything that is not in harmony with what the Scripture says.
“God has given us free will, moral agency. Who am I to say that people cannot hold their particular views? We cannot be so intolerant that we can’t allow people to express their views, but with the same token, the views of a minority should not be imposed on the majority,” he added.
In a letter sent to the Compass on behalf of the ministers association, Mr. Bobb said that while the association recognizes the rights to freedom of religion, speech and assembly, the ministers view the symposium as a “direct attack on the moral, spiritual and social fabric of our islands” and that there is a “war being waged against our biblical, Christian values relating to marriage and family life.”
The letter also notes that the pastors are “especially saddened that a United Kingdom cleric appears to be selected to undermine the biblical values that faithful local pastors have been striving to commend to our people.”
The Bishop of Buckingham, the Right Reverend Alan Wilson, will speak during a keynote panel at the symposium on “Same-sex marriage and the queering project of Jesus.”
During the talk, the bishop will share the U.K. experience with the introduction of same-sex marriage and describe the impact of changes in the U.K. marriage practice on church and state.
Mr. Raznovich said the conference is not against religion, which is why there is an entire panel dedicated to the topic of religion, and why the bishop was invited to speak.
“We respect all religious beliefs, even those that think things that may perhaps harm other people,” Mr. Raznovich said.
He said he hopes that people including local ministers and politicians will come to the conference.