U.K. Overseas Territories Minister, Baroness Joyce Anelay, made what is believed to be the first speech given by anyone in her position to the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly on Tuesday morning, during a whirlwind tour of all three Cayman islands.
The baroness visited the Sister Islands Monday, stating she could not have “chosen a more beautiful starting point” for her first trip to a British Overseas Territory.
On Tuesday morning, she visited the Kimpton Seafire Resort and Spa before heading to the Legislative Assembly to give a brief address that surprised some in attendance in its urging that Cayman accept “gradual change” in preventing discrimination against homosexuals and in providing equal legal rights to individuals in same-sex unions.
“I know this is a sensitive matter in the Cayman Islands,” Baroness Anelay said, addressing the Legislative Assembly, where heated debates over legal rights for members of same-sex unions have raged since last year. “It took some time for changes to equality legislation to be agreed in the U.K., so I do understand the need for time, the need to reflect and adjust.
“It is in everyone’s interests to ensure [the] LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community] equality and freedom from discrimination,” she continued. “I want to make clear that the British government has no plans to impose same-sex marriage in the Cayman Islands.”
In the same section of her brief speech before parliament, the baroness referred to the “legal imperative” for changes to accept civil unions, lest Cayman and the U.K. fall in breach of their international legal obligations.
“The people of the Cayman Islands are famous for offering a warm welcome to diverse people from all over the world,” the baroness said. “I hope they can begin to offer the same welcome to their own LGBT communities.”
Cayman’s Marriage Law and its Constitution Order (2009), which was agreed by the U.K., define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
However, at least one case has arisen that involved a same-sex marriage, ordained in another jurisdiction, where a partner in the union was afforded certain legal rights that would typically be given to couples in traditional marriages.
In that instance, former law school professor Leonardo Raznovich was allowed to remain in Cayman as a dependent on his same-sex partner’s work permit, even though he had lost his own job. The decision by the Immigration Appeals Tribunal led members of the independent opposition bench in the Legislative Assembly to seek a referendum on whether Cayman should accept gay marriages.
Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush used his “vote of thanks” response to Baroness Anelay’s speech Tuesday to dispute claims that Cayman discriminates against anyone.
“We disagree that there is discrimination on LGBT … it has never been so,” Mr. Bush said. “My own party position says we do not discriminate against any human being. However, we will not change our law, nor allow our boards to circumvent our laws … to change our culture.”
Speaker of the House Juliana O’Connor-Connolly also commented after the Baroness’s speech that her constituents in Cayman Brac were concerned about LGBT matters but would be “grateful that the U.K. will not impose [gay marriage].”
Later in the afternoon, the baroness appeared at the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service’s Joint Marine Unit alongside the governor and premier to announce a review of search and rescue capability in the territory.
The research project will be part of a wider review of capacity in Britain’s Caribbean overseas territories, Bermuda and the Falkland Islands. It follows a U.K. Maritime and Coastguard Agency analysis of the police response to an incident earlier this year in which five boaters, including two children, went missing at sea.
Baroness Anelay said, “This research project is to look strategically at how best to deploy resources that exist and to see where there are gaps in resources.”
During her speech in the Legislative Assembly, Baroness Anelay also foreshadowed that the Joint Ministerial Council meeting between the U.K. and overseas territories representatives next month would focus on “a new item” … the separation of Britain from the European Union that was approved by U.K. voters in June.
She said the U.K. would work closely with the territories to ensure their interests were protected and that the split could present new opportunities between the Mother Country and the territories.
Baroness Anelay said financial services in Cayman and the City of London are “second to none” and that although the sector is often in the spotlight, the “Cayman Islands’ record of cooperation and transparency” in the financial services industry “speaks for itself.”
Mr. Bush said that was not always the message emanating from the U.K., in particular from certain politicians and their “chosen” academics.
“There is a distinction between bank secrecy and the legitimate right to privacy,” Mr. Bush said. “Cayman [financial] vehicles invest over $350 billion a year in the City of London. Proper recognition of the Cayman Islands [regulatory standards] is long overdue.”