GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands (CNS) -- Two expatriate lawyers who are in a legal same-sex marriage have won their immigration appeal in the Cayman Islands. Dr Leo Raznovich is now a legal dependent on his spouse’s work permit, settling the question once and for all that Cayman Islands law provides for legally married people, regardless of gender, to be dependents, provided the usual qualifying criteria is met.
Dr Leonardo Raznovich
The Immigration Appeals Tribunal (IAT) found that the Cayman Islands constitution leaves no room to discriminate against same-sex married couples and the current legislation already provides room to grant the application made by Raznovich’s spouse, who works for a local law firm.
Since the application was made more than a year ago, Raznovich made it clear that he believed the law provided for him to be a dependent because the couple is lawfully married in their respective countries of Argentina and Great Britain.
Delighted with the outcome, the former law school professor said Friday that had the IAT found otherwise, it would have been undue discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, which it is prohibited by the Constitution.
“We recognise this is a very important moment for the Cayman Islands,” Raznovich said. “While we are personally delighted with the decision, we do not wish for the focus any longer to be on our specific circumstances or case. This is a triumph of natural justice and reflects a profound respect for the rule of law.”
Raznovich said the tribunal members should be commended for “courageously discharging their legal duties”, applying the existing law without discriminating and without succumbing to considerable political and social pressures to do otherwise.
“Love and equality have prevailed,” Raznovich added, as he also apologized to the members over some of the comments he had made over the last year, driven by frustration over “the upsetting and destabilising circumstances” surrounding the case.
The findings of the IAT uphold existing legislation and have not caused any law to be changed, nor does the decision change anything regarding the legal definition in Cayman of marriage as an institution between people of different genders.
While the implications of the decision are limited, they are very significant. All same-sex couples now have basic immigration rights recognised, meaning people can settle here with their loved ones without fear of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
“These are rights that opposite-sex married couples have always enjoyed and taken for granted, but until now have been inaccessible to same-sex couples in Cayman,” Raznovich said.
The decision paves the way for other same-sex expatriate married couples in Cayman to apply for their partners to become dependents. For years it has been a poorly veiled secret that the work permit system has been used to enable same-sex couples to reside here together, even when only one has a job, by taking out domestic workers’ permits for their partners.
Raznovich said that while the IAT decision reflects the sophisticated nature of the Cayman Islands jurisdiction, its respect for the rule of law above anything and the advancement in the right to family and private life for all individuals, it only applies to immigration rights.
As important as the decision is from an immigration perspective, it now means the discrimination in Cayman against local same-sex couples is even more stark, since they cannot be legally married or have their partnerships recognised for any purpose, even for pension or other fundamental financial, parental or inheritance rights. The definition of marriage under the marriage law and the Constitution has not changed.
There is still a long way to go but the decision by the IAT is, at the very least, a first step towards a more positive environment for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community here and it will provide a leading example for the rest of the overseas territories and the Caribbean region.
Raznovich pointed to the words of the new overseas territories minister, Baroness Anelay, a human rights expert, who recently stated, “The strongest, safest and most prosperous societies are those that value diversity and strive to address all forms of discrimination against all people, including on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Confident that the decision is final, he said there was no room for the Business Staffing Plan Board to challenge the outcome as it was a lawful decision, and following the finding by the IAT, the board has already effected the decision.
Although opposition politicians had pressed the attorney general during a Finance Committee meeting to commit to fighting the IAT or the Business Staffing Plan Board if they found in the couple’s favour, there are simply no legal grounds for a fight.
Republished with permission of Cayman News Service