The first Gay Pride Parade was held in the Cayman Islands Saturday, when hundreds of people, many clad in rainbow colours, marched along West Bay Road.
At the front of the parade, in a show of support for gay rights and diversity and all clad in Cayman LGBTQ Foundation T-shirts, were Premier Wayne Panton, Opposition representative Barbara Conolly and Governor Martyn Roper.
Noel Cayasso-Smith, founder of the Cayman LGBTQ Foundation, which organised the event, thanked the politicians for their support.
He described the first Pride parade as marking a “truly, truly special day” for Cayman, saying that everyone on the islands should be able to live the lives they want to live. “I’m so pleased that we have the government on our side, as well as the governor and… the opposition. That sends a strong message that we are here and we need to be accepted. It shouldn’t matter to anyone what your sexuality is … you should be identified as a human being and not for your sexuality.”
Despite some opposition from certain quarters in Cayman in the runup to the parade, there were no protests along the route. The only people on the sidewalks were those supporting the Pride participants, waving flags and shouting encouragement.
Cayasso-Smith, speaking following the parade, acknowledged this, and thanked the wider Cayman community “who may not have supported us but did not come out to ridicule us”.
The parade adhered to strict COVID control and suppression regulations, which stipulated that everyone taking part had to have been vaccinated, with each person showing their vaccination cards to Health Services Authority staff at registration counters set up at the starting point on Seven Mile Public Beach in the morning. Each person received a pink wristband denoting them as registered, vaccinated participants.
Marshalls holding yellow ropes walked alongside the paraders as they made their way from Public Beach to Palm Heights hotel, separating them from spectators and supporters on the pavements. Under the regulations, no one in the parade was allowed to physically interact with non-registered participants, at the risk of a $10,000 fine and two years in prison.
Speaking at the end of the parade, Governor Roper said he believed the parade marked a historic day for Cayman, saying Cayasso-Smith and his foundation had done an “incredible job”.
“Tolerance for everyone, equality and fairness, that is really important to me,” said the governor who, in September last year, assented to a Civil Partnership Law, which made same-sex partnerships legal in the Cayman Islands.
He added, “This event today is a step in the right direction. With LGTBQ+ rights, we still have a way to go, but we’re making progress step by step.”
He also acknowledged Panton’s and Conolly’s presence at the event, saying this had sent a “huge signal” of the government’s and opposition’s approach to these issues.
The premier, addressing the post-parade crowd at Palm Heights, said he believed every person in Cayman “deserves the right within the law to be who they were born to be”.
During her address, Conolly, who was representing Leader of the Opposition Roy McTaggart who is off island, said the fact that the Pride parade had been held showed that Cayman was on a journey towards “greater tolerance, understanding and respect”.
Some who had registered in advance of the parade did not to participate because of rules put in place by the Cayman LGBTQ Foundation over public displays of affection.
Chantelle Day and Vickie Bodden Bush, who have legally challenged the Cayman Islands government to legalise same-sex marriage, in a Facebook posting earlier today, said they had found out on Friday night that they had been removed from the parade’s participation list because they had queried the ban on displays of affection such as handholding and kissing.
Advocacy group Colours Cayman had also challenged the organisers’ rules on no displays of public affection, issuing a statement on the issue on Friday.
Cayasso-Smith addressed the controversy in a speech following the parade, which ended at Palm Heights, stating, “I’m sorry, I know our rules and regulations standards are a bit high, but I had my reasons. As a foundation, for the first parade, I thought we really needed to do this with self-respect, dignity and pride. I think we achieved that and it gives us another opportunity to once again ask the government for 2022 Pride to continue.”