Badpuppy Gay Today

Thursday, 08 January 1998

CAYMAN ISLANDS TURNS AWAY SHIP WITH 900 GAYS ABOARD

Angers HRC, Atlantis Events, Gay & Lesbian Travel Ass'n & Activists
HRC: 'Economically Foolish, Morally Wrong,'—Bob Kunst Calls 'Boycott!'

Compiled by Badpuppy's GayToday

 

The Cayman Islands is engaging in discrimination by deciding to bar a chartered cruise ship from docking there because its clientele is gay, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) said today.

"Denying routine docking rights to a ship simply because it has gay passengers aboard is not only economically foolish, it is morally wrong," said David M. Smith, HRC's senior strategist and communications director. "The Cayman Islands has effectively said, Travelers are not welcome here if they are gay.' "

"A country that relies on tourism as its primary staple for its economy has much to lose. History has shown that unfriendly areas of the world that actively discriminate against people bring international condemnation. We have registered a complaint with the government and are exploring further action on this matter."

In a December 8 letter to Norwegian Cruise Line, Thomas C. Jefferson, the Cayman Islands' minister of tourism, commerce and transport, had stated: "Careful research and prior experience has led us to conclude that we cannot count on this group to uphold the standards of appropriate behavior expected of visitors to the Cayman Islands, so we regrettably cannot offer our hospitality."

According to the Miami Herald's Business writer, Dale K. Dupont, "the snub has reverberated throughout the gay community."

In typical gay explosions of humor about the incident, some, like longtime Miami gay activist Bob Kunst made fun of the Cayman Islands' tourism chief : "He thinks we're mistaking Cayman Islands for Gayman Islands," he quipped.

But on a more serious note, Kunst faxed the Cayman Tourism Minister, Thomas Jefferson, saying "I am urging an international boycott of the Caymans for your inappropriate and aberrant behavior….we want all lovers and dancers to 'unite' for the Millenium and not continue this arbitrary negativity you are advocating."

Kunst, a participant in Mas with Trinidad Carnival, is a key promoter of what is being billed as the World's #1 Millenium Event, he explained to Jefferson, with 1 Million+ dancing in the streets of Miami Beach and with many nations participating. "I will not allow the Caymans to participate in this Freedom effort," he wrote. Kunst's phone number for contacts about this event is 305-864-5110.

Atlantis Events Inc., a West Hollywood, California-based tour operator that markets to the gay community, had chartered the M/S Leeward from Norwegian Cruise Line to leave Miami on January 30, arriving in the Caymens February 1.

"As a gay tour operator in 1998, this is newsworthy because it's unusual, said Rich Campbell, Atlantis' president, "as travelers we've made a lot of progress."

Mr. Campbell says his company plans to fax the Caymans' decision to the 4.500 travel agents in his data base. It will be up to those agents, he says, if they wish to book clients to the Caymans.

Richard Thompson, executive director of the 1,353 member International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association, situated in Ft. Lauderdale, said that the Cayman Islands have previously shown prejudice toward gay travelers. "It's a very unhealthy 'homophobia' to be this prejudiced toward travelers," he said.

The Human Rights Campaign is asking concerned citizens to contact the government of the Cayman Islands at the following address or phone number, urging that the decision be reconsidered:

Hon. Thomas C. Jefferson, OBE, JP.
Minister of Tourism, Commerce and Transport
Government Administration Building
George Town
Grand Cayman
Cayman Islands
Phone: (345) 949-7900, ext. 2419

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