Cayman’s LGBTQIA+ residents and allies gathered at Central Terrace Saturday evening in support of the newest organisation to join the community cause and to celebrate the expansion of same-sex partnership rights.
More than 120 Caymanians and residents purchased tickets for the first fundraiser of the Cayman LGBTQ Foundation, established earlier this year by Noel Cayasso-Smith.
Despite recent tension over same-sex unions and hostile social media debate, Cayasso-Smith said he received no pushback or protest leading up to the ‘Rainbow Cocktails’ event in downtown George Town.
Police and security were present throughout the evening to ensure the safety of attendees.
For Cayasso-Smith, the foundation is the culmination of a long-held dream to support the islands’ LGBTQIA+ residents and promote community education.
“The beauty of [the foundation] is, it’s not closed only to the LGBTQ community. It’s open to the entire community. We want to see everybody under one roof, enjoying themselves, having fun,” Cayasso-Smith told the Cayman Compass.
In the long run, Cayasso-Smith envisions building a community network of counselling, legal and social services to support the islands’ LGBTQIA+ residents and their loved ones.
One of the short-term goals of the foundation will be to develop informational material about the Civil Partnership Bill, enacted by assent of Governor Martyn Roper after the Legislative Assembly failed to pass legislation earlier this year.
Framework for the bill came into force on Monday, 28 Sept.
“There’s a lot of uproar in the community. There’s a lot of hate,” Cayasso-Smith said, with regard to debate over the legislation.
“What we’re looking forward to doing is trying to help the community to understand what’s been taking place with the bill and try to build bridges here, because there has been so much hate going on in this country,” he told attendees. “I’ve been here for 52, going on 53 years, and I have never seen our people act the way they’ve been acting over such a silly cause. It’s time to live and let live.”
Cayasso-Smith reflected on his own experience as a young Caymanian, who felt alienated by his identity and eventually left to pursue a new life in the United Kingdom.
While his 13 years abroad taught him how to accept his true self, he doesn’t want to see new generations of Caymanians forced down the same road.
“A lot of Caymanians are still leaving these islands to go away to live a life that they should be living right here in Grand Cayman,” he said.
Colours Cayman founder Billie Bryan welcomed the formation of the foundation to amplify the cause of LGBTQIA+ people.
“It’s great to have more people fighting for this cause, for this community. We are behind Cayman LGBTQ Foundation 100%,” Bryan said.
“There’s a lot of work to be done, so it’s good to have someone to offload some of that work onto now and then.”
Attorney Leonardo Raznovich provided further comments on the years-long marriage battle, fought in court by Caymanian Chantelle Day and her partner Vickie Bodden Bush.
“Some MLAs still today claim that they needed more time [to consider the bill], that the government was rushing legislation. How is that possible after five years?” Raznovich said.
“Our Constitution is the most important tool that we have in this jurisdiction. Do not let the politicians or even the judiciary destroy the Constitution. It is the most important tool that we have to protect us.”
One MLA, Barbara Conolly of George Town South, attended Saturday’s fundraiser for the foundation. Conolly was not able to vote when the Domestic Partnership Bill came before the Legislative Assembly in July, as she was residing in the role of speaker in place of McKeeva Bush during the vote.
Attorney Ben Tonner, who served on the legal team in Day and Bodden Bush’s marriage fight, provided support pro bono to establish the Cayman LGBTQ Foundation as a registered non-profit organisation.
On the foundation’s board of directors, alongside Cayasso-Smith as president, are Aduke Joseph-Caesar as vice president, Kimberly Scott as secretary and Cathy Ebony Scott as treasurer.