BLP members split over same-sex resolution
A resolution tabled by the Christ Church East branch at last month’s 76th Annual Conference of the Barbados Labour Party (BLP), which seeks to place same-sex couples on the same level as heterosexual couples in any new domestic violence legislation, has aroused the ire of some members of the Mia Mottley-led party.
Barbados TODAY has learnt that the matter was also the source of heated debate during last Monday night’s parliamentary group meeting at BLP headquarters on Roebuck Street.
At that meeting, several Opposition parliamentarians, including St George South MP Dwight Sutherland; St Michael East MP Trevor Prescod; St Michael North MP Ronald Toppin and St James Central MP Kerrie Symmonds came out strongly against the resolution that supports “gender-neutral” legislation, which specifically defines “partner” as “any person who is in a visiting relationship with the respondent” and “spouse” as “a party to a relationship where the parties are living with each other in the same household as though they were husband and wife”.
Well-placed sources say when the matter came up for discussion at the October 24-26 party conference, Mottley, who was chairperson of the meeting, had sought to distance herself from the resolution, indicating that such proposals needed to be properly vetted before they could be submitted for adoption.
The move has also not gone down well with members of the Christ Church East branch in whose name the resolution was brought by the constituency’s caretaker Wilfred Abrahams.
In a letter dated November 4, 2014 to general secretary of the BLP Dr Jerome Walcott, the branch’s executive body was adamant that the resolution was never discussed at the branch level.
“We wish to emphatically state that the branch has had no knowledge of the resolution whatsover, prior to its presentation to the conference; has absolutely not participated in any discussion, let alone any drafting of such resolution; and was totally unaware of its contents.
“On behalf of the Christ Church East branch of the BLP, we the duly elected officers of this constituency branch, having discussed these circumstances at a meeting held on Monday, November 3, 2014, formally ask that the National Executive Council of the party at its next held meeting takes note and duly records the foregoing, which deeply offends the branch procedurally as well as, by implication, suggests the branch’s acquiescence and/or support of any formal legislative recognition of non-heterosexual relationships at this time, and where there has been no engagement nor discussion on the matter. We further ask that this objection be formally registered as correspondence at the staging of the next annual conference of the party,” the branch executive added.
The correspondence was copied to Mottley, in her capacity as chairperson of the BLP, and Kwame Bradshaw, the president of the party’s Christ Church East branch.
However, Abrahams is of the view that the proposal is “not something to be feared, but to be embraced”.
During the recent annual conference, he had described the proposed domestic violence bill as “a socially revolutionary piece of legislation” that would “widen the ambit of who actually is a victim”.
Abrahams, who also defended the resolution at Monday’s parliamentary group meeting, insists that while it is going to be controversial, “if you are in a non-hetrosexual relationship, the fact is if you are being abused or being victimized, then that I don’t approve of your lifestyle does not mean you are not entitled to the full support and protection of the court”.
“How it is drafted, it is drafted to catch anybody. If we open our minds and consider what constitutes a domestic situation, all those people are caught,” he told BLP delegates.
When contacted today, Abrahams told Barbados TODAY that the proposed legislation had only ever been about the protection of victims of violence.
“It is entirely unfortunate that the public is now being misled as to the content and extent of the draft legislation,” he said.
“There is no mention in the draft legislation of same-sex unions or same-sex relationships. In fact, the draft follows the exact approach as the Government’s working draft in terms of being gender neutral, and while affording significantly more remedies than the Government’s, it does not include or exclude anyone that the Government’s does not.”
Responding to reports of a division in the party over the issue, Abrahams said: “I was not a part of any heated parliamentary group meeting on the topic and, in any event, the deliberations in parliamentary group are confidential in much the same way as the Barbados TODAY board meetings.
“As far as I am aware, the only rumblings in Christ Church East are by the people who want Denis Lowe to go because he has failed them as a representative and a minister.”
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