No gays please - we're Cayman Islanders

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The Independent Online
The Caymans are not for gay men. That could be the motto of the popular Caribbean resort islands after they turned away a cruise liner chartered by 900 mostly-American gays. Gay and civil rights groups are outraged.

The Norwegian Cruise Line's "love boat", The Leeward, had requested a routine seven-hour stopover in the Caymans on a one-week holiday cruise out of Miami starting at the end of this month.

On hearing that the cruise was an all-gay package, the island's tourism minister, Thomas Jefferson, apparently unswayed by his famous namesake's efforts towards life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, wrote to the cruise company last month: "careful research and prior experience has led us to conclude that we cannot count on this group to uphold the standards of appropriate behaviour expected of visitors to the Cayman Islands. So we regrettably cannot offer our hospitality."

The Leeward will head instead for the former British colony of Belize to allow its passengers to stop over for shopping and snorkelling.

Gay travel agencies in the US, which estimate worldwide gay business at around pounds 600m a year, said they would consider a boycott of the Caymans. "It's appalling. I can't believe a country whose economy is based on tourism would tell an entire class of people they're not welcome," said David Smith of the Human Rights Campaign, a leading gay rights organisation. "It's not only economically foolish. It's morally wrong. We're exploring further action."

Atlantis Events Inc., of California, which chartered the Leeward, said it would fax details of the Caymans' decision to 4,500 travel agents in its database. "I find it astonishing that in 1998 you could elicit such a strong response to 900 well-heeled men who want to stop for seven hours of diving and shopping," said Atlantis president Rich Campbell.

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