(WB) Upwards of 600 people participated in the first-ever Pride parade in the Cayman Islands that took place on Saturday.
Caymanian Gov. Martyn Roper, Premier Wayne Panton and opposition MP Barbara Conolly are among those who participated in the parade that the Cayman LGBTQ Foundation, a local advocacy group, organized.
Caymanian authorities required that all participants were vaccinated against COVID-19. Noel Cayasso-Smith, founder and president of the Cayman LGBTQ Foundation, told the Washington Blade during a WhatsApp interview that his group did not allow alcohol in the parade and “discouraged” public displays of affections “in order to maintain a respectful event.”
“This is the first time in history the Cayman Islands has ever been able to put on a Pride,” said Cayasso-Smith. “I’m excited because we had no protesters. We had no negativity throughout the entire parade.”
Cayasso-Smith said he and members of the Cayman LGBTQ Foundation decided to organize the parade, in part, because the pandemic has drastically reduced travel to and from the Cayman Islands. Cayasso-Smith noted hotels, condominium associations, restaurants, bars and local businesses all supported the event.
“Pride month came in and you know for every year I got really tired of seeing our Cayman people leaving to go to Atlanta, New York, San Francisco, Canada to enjoy themselves for Pride,” he said while noting the travel restrictions that remain in place because of the pandemic. “We thought it would be great to have our Pride here since we’re in our own little bubble.”
The Cayman Islands is a British territory that is located in the western Caribbean Sea between Jamaica and Cuba.
The Caymanian government in 1998 refused to allow a gay cruise ship with 900 passengers to dock. Religious officials in the British territories pressured authorities to prohibit an Atlantic Events vessel from visiting the territory.
Cayasso-Smith, who was born in the Cayman Islands, told the Blade that “growing up here has been very difficult for me as a gay person.” Cayasso-Smith lived in the U.K. for 13 years until he returned to the Cayman Islands to help his family rebuild their home after Hurricane Ivan devastated the British territory in 2004.
“I decided to stay because I thought, you know, I should be able to live in my country as a free gay man where there are no laws restricting me from being who I am,” said Cayasso-Smith. “I feel that as a gay man contributing to the island I should have the right to live free.”
Caymanian Grand Court Chief Justice Anthony Smellie in 2019 struck down the territory’s same-sex marriage ban. The Caymanian Court of Appeal a few months later overturned the ruling.
The territory’s Civil Partnership Law took effect last September.