This week the Cayman Islands were the subject of dual “invasions”: one by U.S. military aircraft preparing to launch a disaster relief operation in hurricane-struck Haiti; and one by Baroness Joyce Anelay on her first visit to a British Overseas Territory under her ministerial aegis.
Only one of those launched any explosive ordinance while in the country. It wasn’t the American Black Hawk helicopters.
Baroness Anelay (who, along with the American military personnel, are of course our honored guests) spent the vast majority of her time in Cayman following the usual diplomatic protocol — observing, listening, conversing, etc.
Fairly mundane stuff, really. Until the baroness took to the microphone.
At Tuesday’s opening of the Legislative Assembly, the baroness briefly addressed lawmakers. In her seven-page speech, she admired “Cayman Kindness,” praised Cayman’s economy, defended the financial services sectors here and in London, lauded the local public service … and put Cayman officials on notice that our country’s policies on gay rights run contrary to legal standards in the U.K. and internationally.
“First, and most importantly, I want to make clear that the British government has no plans, no plans to impose same-sex marriage in the Cayman Islands. However, I also want to be clear that continued discrimination puts the Cayman Islands in breach of its international obligations, so there is a legal imperative to change,” she said.
Everything else the baroness did and said in Cayman — announcing a review of search and rescue capabilities, as well as additional funds for environmental protection, security, good governance, child safeguarding and hazard management support — is all well and good.
But what will be remembered, locally, from the baroness’s visit is her prodding that our culturally conservative citizenry voluntarily initiate measures “to ensure LGB&T equality and freedom from discrimination,” or face potential legal and economic consequences. (Not from the U.K. government, perhaps, but presumably from somewhere.)
Surely when she forayed into this white-hot political issue the baroness knew exactly what she was doing, that is, to send an unequivocal message that Cayman’s stance on gay marriage is being looked upon by the powers-that-be in London, and not with approval. Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush, for one, seemed prepared for Baroness Anelay’s broaching of the issue.
Right after the baroness’s speech, Mr. Bush included the following in his “vote of thanks” response: “We disagree that there is discrimination on LGBT … it has never been so. 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.”
The line Mr. Bush drew in the sand will not diverge significantly from the positions one can expect candidates of all stripes to stake during the upcoming campaign season.
Although gay rights and same-sex marriage may continue to draw outsize attention and generate excess heat from now until the next election, we doubt this cultural issue will evolve from the realm of “politics” into the domain of actual “policy.” In brief, the majority of voters, and nearly all of our politicians, are strongly in favor of retaining the status quo.
Baroness Anelay’s reference to “a legal imperative to change” is instructive and echoes observations we have made in previous editorials. On the issue of LGBT rights, change is not likely to arise from the local polls or parliament — but, if and when it happens, will probably arrive from the courthouse, or from overseas, or both.