Caymans will not accept gay partnerships

Tony Grew May 14, 2008
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In the wake of an incident in which a gay man was detained by police on the Cayman Islands after kissing his boyfriend in public, a politician in the British Overseas Territory has questioned why he received an apology.

The holiday destination’s government is considering introducing a bill of rights, and it has revealed that it has received assurances from the Foreign Office that there will be no attempts to introduce any form of same-sex civil partnerships.

The governing People’s Progressive Movement has said it plans to define marriage in local law as the union of a man and a woman.

One outspoken local legislator has questioned why the Director of Tourism on the Cayman Islands apologised to Aaron Chandler, the American visitor who was targeted and held by police for kissing his boyfriend.

Pilar Bush wrote to him describing his treatment as an “isolated incident” and not representative of attitudes on the islands, who are heavily reliant on tourism.

Assembly member Julianna O’Connor–Connolly has asked why the apology was issued, and claimed Mr Chandler should be apologising for his show of same-sex affection.

“If (visitors) want to see that they can go to Los Angeles or Second Street in New York,” she said during a budget debate, according to the Caymanian Compass.

“Is this the kind of tourism we want in the Cayman Islands?

“Are we just inches away from telling our pastors that they can’t preach about this lifestyle?

“Once doubt enters in the equation that we have to pander to these people, then we are diminishing our faith in God.

“Each time, I get more and more concerned as I see a lack of commitment to these values.”

Mr Chandler, a 23 year old American on holiday with his partner, was detained by an off duty police officer on April 30th and taken to a police station but not arrested. He was later released without charge.

Complaints about the couple kissing were reportedly made by fellow customers at the Royal Palms resort.

The couple deny that they behaved any differently from other straight guests.

Mr Chandler was told by the off duty police officer to not kiss his partner in public.

The couple decided to ignore the instruction and when later in the evening they kissed again Mr Chandler was physically taken away from the nightclub where they were drinking with friends and detained at the local station.

Several fellow revellers followed Mr Chandler as he was led away from the bar, protesting at the officers’ actions.

Many were shocked at the arrest as the Cayman Islands is a British Overseas Territory.

Homosexual acts between consenting adults were decriminalised in Cayman by a UK Order in Council in December 2000.

According to the Caymanian Compass:

“UK officials said they would in no way require Cayman to legalise gay marriage.”

There are laws in the country’s Penal Code and the Towns and Communities Law that make the public displays of affection by two people of the same sex a crime, especially if it causes distress or disturbance to other members of the public.

Mr Chandler was told that although he was able to do what he liked in the privacy of his hotel room, it was not acceptable for two men to kiss each other in a public place.

The Director of Tourism on the Cayman Islands later apologised by email.

“On behalf of the entire Department of Tourism, I apologise for your upsetting experience and want to assure you that the Cayman Islands is a welcoming jurisdiction to all people,” Pilar Bush wrote.

“We know that thousands of gay and lesbian visitors travel to the Cayman Islands every year and enjoy their vacation.”

Mr Chandler said that the apology was appreciated but also made sense from a business point of view 70% of the nation’s GDP comes from tourism.

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