October 13, 2015

Law Professor Accuses the UK of Silence on Anti gay Speech and Homophobia on its Territories

The professor at the center of a gay rights case in the Cayman Islands told a conference for international lawyers that he believes the United Kingdom is failing to meet its responsibilities with respect to human rights for homosexuals in the Overseas Territories. 
Leonardo Raznovich, speaking at the International Bar Association’s annual conference in Vienna on Thursday, said U.K. officials had failed to publicly condemn a speech from Bodden Town legislator Anthony Eden in the Legislative Assembly. 

The speech, in which Mr. Eden described homosexuality as a “social and moral evil” and drew comparisons with pedophilia and bestiality, was criticized by Cayman’s Human Rights Commission, as a “poisonous hate speech.” 
Mr. Raznovich said he was disappointed that both the Cayman Islands government and the U.K. had, up to now, remained silent on the issue. 
Asked for comment on Friday, the Cayman Islands Governor’s Office did not address Mr. Eden’s remarks directly. 

Joanne Vaughan, policy adviser in the Governor’s Office, said “The U.K. supports equal treatment for LGBT people and works to promote non-discrimination of LGBT people across the world. The U.K. condemns any discriminatory and offensive remarks.” 
The former Truman Bodden Law School professor, who is fighting to have his same-sex marriage recognized by Cayman’s immigration authorities, also highlighted numerous discrepancies between Cayman’s laws and the European Convention of Human Rights in reference to homosexuals, in his speech at the conference. 

He said the message had been well received by the association, which was interested in setting up a task force to examine London’s role in the territories and across the Commonwealth in relation to human rights for lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender individuals. 

He said members of the association were particularly concerned about the lack of response from the U.K. government to Mr. Eden’s speech, delivered on Aug. 13 in support of his private members’ motion which sought to confirm the definition of marriage in the Cayman Islands as between one man and one woman. “They were very surprised by the lack of reaction from London to what was a medieval speech,” said Mr. Raznovich. 
“London has done nothing in relation to a member of the Legislative Assembly in one of its territories making that kind of speech and doing so behind parliamentary immunity. 
“They should have, I think, made some statement similar to the Human Rights Commission and, at the very least, say that the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) condemns those words.” 

Mr. Raznovich said the bar association has a powerful voice, not just to lobby governments but potentially to enlist law firms to help fight test cases challenging discriminatory legislation. A number of laws in the Cayman Islands, and other territories, have been highlighted as breaches of rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights, which extends to the British territories. 

The Cayman Islands Human Rights Commission has recommended legal recognition of same-sex unions, though not necessarily gay marriage. This would serve to protect a number of rights and obligations that married couples have, including laws regarding financial support, child maintenance payments, inheritance and immigration. 
Mr. Raznovich, who was married in Argentina in 2012, is involved in one such case. His partner has lodged an appeal against the Immigration Department’s Business Staffing Plan Board’s decision that it could not accommodate a request for Mr. Raznovich to be listed as a dependent on his work permit, an application routinely approved for couples of opposite sex. 

Mr. Raznovich said he was confident that his own appeal would be successful. 
But he said it would not help gay Caymanians achieve legal recognition for their same-sex partnerships and believes more direct action is needed. He said if the Cayman Islands government or the U.K. government did not step in to make changes, it would be down to individuals to fight discriminatory legislation in the courts on a case-by-case basis. 
Ms. Vaughan added, “Whilst the legal framework for LGBT people in the Cayman Islands is primarily a matter for the Cayman Islands Government, under international law, the U.K. government is responsible for ensuring the compliance of the Cayman Islands with its international human rights obligations, including the ECHR. 

“The U.K. government seeks to ensure that all OTs act in accordance with their international human rights obligations and strongly encourages all British Overseas Territories to pursue policies and enact legislation, guaranteeing LGBT rights and freedom from discrimination.” 

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