Last week, marriage equality was finally legalized in the Cayman Islands, a British territory in the Caribbean Sea, after the Grand Court ruled than a ban on same-sex marriages was unconstitutional.
The government, however, soon said it would appeal the ruling to a high Court of Appeal… because that’s what Jesus would want.
Said Premier Alden McLaughlin in a speech to Parliament:
“I recognise that many of the younger generation of Caymanians have differing views on this issue and it is quite likely that in years to come the majority view of Caymanians may change. But such a majority is not evident to any of us here today.
“However, I equally want to make it clear that no matter what my own religious beliefs, or indeed the beliefs of the other members of my government or of this Parliament, as your premier, I also have an obligation under the law and the Constitution, and indeed given my religious upbringing, under the teachings of Christ, to ensure that all people, but especially any minority group, regardless of differences, are treated fairly and with respect.”
His religious beliefs ought to be irrelevant, and it’s hard to figure out how marriage equality hurts anybody. Years after the U.S. legalized it nationwide, straight couples still haven’t come up with a good excuse for how gay weddings have harmed them.
I bring all this up because James Austin-Smith, the head of the government’s Human Rights Commission, publicly denounced the plan to appeal the decision. He said it would be a waste of money, ill-considered, and “doomed to fail.”
In a statement Thursday afternoon, the commission describes government’s case as “weak to the point of being inarguable”.
It adds, “Unjustified state-sponsored discrimination has no place in a modern democracy and it is unlawful under Cayman’s Constitution.”
Bravo! But Austin-Smith’s comments çreated a kerfuffle because the government doesn’t like it when one of its own people is speaking out against their decisions. The Parliament’s Speaker, McKeeva Bush, even called for Austin-Smith to be fired. And look at his justification for it.
He went on to describe Austin-Smith as an atheist who should therefore not be chair of the Human Rights Commission.
“He has declared his stand against God, he has declared his stand against the church, against our laws, and now his disgust against members here,” Mr. Bush said.
“From my standpoint, a declared atheist should never be a chair of such an important body,” he added, suggesting the role should instead go to a young lawyer or church minister.
Wow. Lots of faith-based bigotry in such a short speech… Why on earth shouldn’t an atheist run a human rights commission? Someone who’s looking out for everyone in the here and now is much more qualified than a religious person who persecutes people because all that matters is the afterlife. Even now, the Christian government wants to deny same-sex couples equal rights using religion as an argument.
It’s appalling that marriage equality is still being debated anywhere in the world, but for someone to be condemned for supporting it in the name of human rights is especially disturbing. Let’s hope the government’s appeal goes nowhere and Austin-Smith’s comments carry the day.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)