Thousands of people packed the Lions Centre Sunday night for what was billed as the Cayman Islands’ first “family values” conference.
The rally, organized by the Cayman Ministers’ Association, Seventh-day Adventist Church and other churches, featured speakers from Jamaica and the United States, as well as local pastors and politicians.
Some 3,000 were in attendance, according to organizers.
The speakers addressed an array of challenges facing families today, providing Bible-based solutions. Among the topics discussed were raising children, maintaining a successful marriage, divorce, pre-marital sex, abortions and sexually transmitted diseases.
All of the speakers addressed same-sex unions to varying degrees, starting with Premier Alden McLaughlin.
“We’re all bound by the rule of law, and that is the Marriage Law [which] defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman,” Premier Alden McLaughlin said. “Not one man and another man, nor one woman and another woman. That’s the law of the Cayman Islands and let no one persuade you it’s otherwise.”
During the premier’s speech, the Lions Centre erupted with applause and shouts from the crowd.
“Marriage is the institution ordained by God and is reserved only for persons of the opposite sex,” the premier continued. “Whatever relationships exist between persons of the same-sex, are not, and cannot, be considered as marriages under the laws of the Cayman Islands.”
Outside the Lions Centre, a small counter-rally was taking place in support of LGBT rights. Listening from across the road, Alanna Warwick, an LGBT rights supporter, said her group was not trying to hinder anyone’s religious freedom. Rather, Ms. Warwick said, she was concerned about infringements on human rights.
“When you are teaching future generations that [a] certain class of people are better than each other, that’s wrong. We are all equal, we are all human, and we should all be treated the same way,” she said.
Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush took the stage after Mr. McLaughlin.
He said there are a number of matters he thinks the Ministers’ Association can address in the islands, but this particular issue is “very challenging” in several ways.
Mr. Bush said, during his government’s administration, U.K. officials wanted Cayman to accept same-sex unions or civil unions – a legal status similar to marriage – regardless of whether the country legalized homosexual marriages.
Mr. Bush said he told the U.K. that would not occur “on his watch.”
In 2012, then-Premier Bush said he informed U.K. representatives that his United Democratic Party [now the Cayman Islands Democratic Party] does not discriminate against any human beings. However, he said his government would not allow anyone to “ramrod” anything through that Caymanians did not support, including, he said, the acceptance of same-sex unions.
“Somehow, in spite of what’s being said, they found a weak link in our chain,” he said.
Mr. Bush said the bill of rights contained in Cayman’s Constitution Order (2009) does not recognize homosexual marriage. Yet, he said it seems a gay marriage sanctioned in another country cannot be addressed under local law.
During his comments to the family values rally, Mr. Bush referred to a recent situation where the local immigration system had recently “been tested” and one member of a same-sex couple was given dependent status on his partner’s work permit.
“It has been done,” he said. “My dear friends, pray and pray again because the [Immigration Appeals Tribunal] has recognized them. We have taken the first step, shame. They say they have to do it by law.
“What else will they recognize by law? God help us,” Mr. Bush said.
Premier McLaughlin said some had claimed the recent decision of the Immigration Appeals Tribunal in the case of former Cayman Islands Law School Professor Leonardo Raznovich – to which Mr. Bush referred – would have the effect of somehow changing Cayman’s Constitution or the Marriage Law.
“As your premier and as an attorney, this is not the case,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “We still have the right to [hold] fast to the Christian precept of marriage [as being] only between one man and one woman.”
The premier said he had been given assurances by former U.K. Overseas Territories Minister Grant Shapps, and as recently as Friday by Governor Helen Kilpatrick, that the U.K. will not require the Cayman Islands to adopt same-sex marriages.
Brendan Bain, a researcher and educator from Family Life Ministries in Jamaica, spoke at length about issues ranging from marriage to sexuality.
“Values that come from the teachings of the Bible include honesty, truth, diligence, humility, respect for self and others, love, trustworthiness, sexual purity inside and outside of marriage, passion and caring for the poor.
“In a world that seems to be changing around us, these values are worth preserving now,” he said. Mr. Bain shared with the crowd seven messages relating to the theme – “the future is now.”
Also during Sunday’s event, featured guest speaker David Gibbs, a U.S. attorney, urged local church leaders to put their beliefs in writing.
“It’s going to be very important the churches lay out who can be a member, who can be in leadership.” Mr. Gibbs said. He said his organization, the National Center For Life and Liberty, would provide Cayman churches with a draft “statement of faith” that allows them to clearly define where their church stands on marriage and morality issues.
Mr. Gibbs said his church believes that marriage should be limited to one man, determined at birth, and one woman, and that bigamous marriages should not be sanctioned. He also told the audience that any sexual activity outside of marriage is a sin.
“We are not opposed to homosexuality, we are opposed to all sin that violates the word of God,” he said. “We want people to live according to His book.”