Gay couple press on with fight for equality in the Cayman Islands

Dr Leonardo Raznovich, who is set to become the standard-bearer in the Cayman Islands for gay rights, said he and his spouse still intend to press ahead with a legal challenge to the refusal but they are currently working with the immigration department in a spirit of cooperation to resolve the key issue.

Raznovich, who is from Argentina, is legally married to a British lawyer who works for a major offshore law firm. The couple has been in Cayman since 2011 and has been in a civil partnership and then a legal marriage for around 16 years. Given that the marriage is legal in both of their native countries, when Raznovich’s contract at the law school was not renewed, his spouse made an application to the immigration department to add him to his work permit, which is held by his employer, as a dependent.

The couple met the financial and other general requirements, so as far as they were concerned there was no reason why the dependence request should not have been granted, as would be the case for any other married couple that met the criteria. But despite the legal marriage, the request was refused as the board claimed it did not have the legal mechanism to fulfil the request.

Alerted to the refusal on the online tracking system last week, Raznovich confirmed on Wednesday that they have now received the formal letter of refusal from the board and they are considering their legal challenge. Bound to be a precedent setting case, if the couple are able to secure the support of the courts for Raznovich to become a dependent, it will be an effective recognition in law of same-sex marriage for overseas nationals from countries where same-sex marriage is legal.

However, without legislative change, marriage between same-sex Caymanian couples will remain illegal here, regardless of where the couple marries because of the wording of the existing law. This would give rise to a significant human rights question and a conundrum that government will have to face to avoid more costly litigation. But many now believe that the move by Raznovich and his partner will set Cayman firmly on the road at the very least to same-sex civil unions and a major battle against the current legal discrimination against same-sex couples.

Raznovich will in the meantime continue in Cayman as a visitor, which he said means he will need a departure flight each time he enters Cayman and, when required, will need to apply for visitor extensions and leave the jurisdiction until the application to add him to his spouse’s work permit is resolved.

“We continue in our discussions with immigration regarding these conditions, but are working with them in the spirit of cooperation until the main issue is resolved,” he said Wednesday as he revealed that he will be sharing the circumstances surrounding the immigration question at an important legal conference next month.

Raznovich, who is also a lawyer and legal academic, has been invited to the International Bar Association (IBA) annual conference in Vienna to present the details of the case and its legal implications.

Meanwhile, Jim Obergefell, the man now synonymous with the landmark US Supreme Court decision on same-sex unions, has offered his support to the couple.

In a message delivered via email to Cayman’s local TV station Cayman 27, Obergefell said that the Supreme Court decision was a powerful step forward but the rights of the LGBT community continue to be denied and challenged worldwide.

“Unfortunately, LGBT people everywhere must continue to fight for equal protection, and it is past time for governments around the world to protect the rights of all citizens,” he said.

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