MPs criticise Cayman Islands’ draft constitution for omitting gay rights

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A draft constitution for the Cayman Islands has been criticised by MPs for deliberately excluding gay rights.

A report from the Foreign Affairs Committee described the decision to exclude sexual orientation as a prohibited ground for discrimination was “deplorable” and raised concerns that it breached human rights laws.

The Cayman Islands are a British Overseas Territory and their foreign relations are largely managed from the United Kingdom.

The report said: “We conclude that the deliberate omission of reference to sexual orientation as a prohibited ground for discrimination in the Cayman Islands draft constitution is deplorable. The possibility cannot be ruled out that the drafting of the constitution in this regard may result in Cayman Islands courts affording to citizens of those islands less than the full protection which they are entitled to under the European Convention on Human Rights.”

It continued: “It is also clear that it was at the behest of the Islanders that explicit reference to sexual orientation was dropped from the Cayman Islands draft constitution. The FCO [Foreign and Commonwealth Office] argues that the list of grounds for discrimination is open-ended and thus does not exclude sexual orientation. However, the case-law on European Convention on Human Rights Article 14 is clear that sexual orientation is a ‘status’ and that differential treatment on that basis requires particularly weighty justification.”

The committee looked at two draft constitutions; one for the Cayman Islands and another for St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.

Both were found to contain references to Christian faith, with the Cayman Islands draft preamble proclaiming it “a God-fearing country based on traditional Christian values, tolerant of other religions and beliefs”.

The report concluded: “We recommend that in all future discussions with Overseas Territories about revisions to their constitutions, the FCO insists that no specific religion or faith community be singled out for privileged mention, and that anti-discrimination provisions make explicit mention of sexual orientation.”

Cayman Island residents currently enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the Caribbean region, aided by thriving tourism and banking industries.

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

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, there has been much discussion of gay rights in the territory.

The Director of Tourism apologised to Aaron Chandler, an American visitor who was targeted and held by police in May 2008 for kissing his boyfriend.

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