Denial of Embarkation Rights to Atlantis Events Tours
Facsimile (202) 588-7850, 7 January 1998
Dear Ambassador Mayer, Your Excellency:
It has today been brought to the attention of our organization (the Magnus Hirschfeld Centre for Human Rights, a non-governmental organization domiciled in the United States and engaged in international human rights legal advocacy on behalf of sexual minorities) that a passenger cruise vessel chartered by Atlantis Events Tours, of West Hollywood, California (U.S.) was denied embarkation rights by the Government of the Cayman Islands on account of the passengers of the same being, or thought to be homosexual, individuals. Our understanding is that over the past several years, a variety of tour operators whose clientele is, or is believed to have been, composed primarily of homosexual persons (viz., Olivia Tours, RSVP Cruises in addition to Atlantis Events Tours) have been denied permission to dock at Caymanian facilities.
Our information has it that, beginning in August, 1997, Atlantis Events Tours (which in fact does engage in specialty tour marketing to the gay and lesbian community) initiated a series of applications to the Cayman Islands authorities for permission to embark there, and that permission has consistently been withheld. It appears that this is most recently evidenced by a letter dated 8th December 1997 to the tour operator from the Hon. Thomas C. Jefferson, Cayman Islands Minister of Tourism, which stated inter alia:
"Careful research and prior experience has led us to conclude that we cannot count on this group [i.e., homosexual persons] to uphold the standards of appropriate behavior expected of visitors to the Cayman Islands; so, we regrettably cannot offer our hospitality."
As are aware, Your Excellency, the Cayman Islands is an Overseas Dependent Territory of the United Kingdom, with the latter exercising its constitutional authority in the realms of defense and foreign relations on its dependency's behalf under the provisions of the Cayman Islands Constitution Act of 1959 (as amended 1994). Among those obligations discharged by the United Kingdom on the Cayman Islands' behalf is ensuring the latter's adherence to the legal impositions of international treaties, including the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, to whose terms the Cayman Islands are bound. The foregoing instrument has been repeatedly interpreted to prohibit the criminalization of private, consensual conduct of a homosexual character, and this fact has been brought to the attention of the Government of the Cayman Islands by the United Kingdom authorities on at least one occasion to the writer's knowledge. In spite of that fact, and of the Cayman Islands' clear obligation, there continues in force on the Cayman Islands' statute-books legislation applying criminal sanctions to homosexual conduct, even when that conduct occurs consensually, privately, and between parties in their majority.
This writer had corresponded with various functionaries of the Cayman Islands Government in 1996 and 1997, and had been assured by those persons that, in conjunction with an overall amendment of the then-existing criminal legislation, the statute(s) referred to above would in the immediate future be rescinded. This has not occurred to date.
One can only be led to assume that this situation forms the basis for the Cayman Islands Government's assertion that homosexual persons will not be assumed to uphold "appropriate" (i.e., non-criminal) behavior. I fail to conceive of any reasonable alternate explanation for the refusal of Atlantis Events' application on the basis of some group characteristic shared by its patrons, particularly in the light of the Caymanian Government's earlier conduct in respect of the other tour applicants cited above.
Given the facts that (1) the Government of the Cayman Islands appears to lack cognizance of its own obligations under both international law and in connection with its constitutional arrangements with the United Kingdom; (2) the Cayman Islands tourism authorities have clearly acted in contravention of the economic interests of the territory over which their control is not of an ultimate character; and (3) law-abiding United States citizens (inter alia) are being barred from entry into a British Overseas Dependent Territory which action we believe impugns United Kingdom responsibility for the conduct of its dependency's external relations, we feel the Hirschfeld Centre must make the appropriate United Kingdom authorities aware of the situation, which is the intent of this correspondence.
Further, and pending the outcome of the Centre's investigation into the instant matter, I feel that it is the Centre's obligation to call upon its colleagues and cooperators in the human rights movement and the gay and lesbian community to make their concerns known as well.
Consonant with the foregoing, it is our respectful request that Your Excellency advise Her Majesty's Government appropriately, and convey our serious and growing concerns to the appropriate officers of that Government.
The favor of your promptest possible reply is respectfully requested.
William A. Courson
THE MAGNUS HIRSCHFELD CENTRE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS