Debate needed, not indignation on gay rights
The debate on homosexuality is easily one of the most divisive in Barbados and the Caribbean, with hardly any room for compromise by proponents on either side of the argument.
But yesterday’s landmark ruling by the Belize Supreme Court, which overturned a law forbidding sexual relations between homosexuals, is already being deemed a game changer that could force the Caribbean to face up to the lingering sore issue.
The case, which was brought to court in 2010 by Caleb Orozco, the president of gay rights group United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM), challenged Section 53 of the country’s Criminal Code, on the grounds that it infringed on the Protections of the Fundamental Rights and Freedoms of the individual guaranteed by the Belize Constitution.
Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin sided with Orozco on all counts, ruling that the law was a violation to dignity, privacy, equality and non-discrimination on grounds of sex.
He ordered an amendment to exclude penalties for sexual acts between two consenting adults of the same gender.
In response to the ruling, a delighted Orozco said: “The Supreme Court set a historic precedent in the country, and in the Caribbean more widely, by upholding the dignity and equality of all citizens regardless of their sexual orientation. Though I know much has yet to be done to change attitudes in my country, this is a momentous step, and I could not be more proud.”
And almost immediately, the Caribbean advisor of the advocacy group, OutRight Action International, Kenita Palcide, said: “We are hopeful that this will contribute to a shift in the Caribbean as a whole, where 10 countries still have remnants of colonial sodomy laws. But the laws are only part of what needs to change. We need a stronger movement across the region that can push for a change in societal attitudes. This historic win will push us forward!”
Here at home, the reaction was predictable. Members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community jumped for joy while church leaders expressed righteous dismay. No doubt, the usual argument where both sides will champion their positions with as much passion as they can muster will ensue, but alas, there will be no resolution.
What is more noteworthy is the caution from a Government minister, who has opted on this occasion to remain anonymous, that “it is just a matter of time before the Barbados Supreme Court is asked to rule on this controversial issue.”
Certainly the judgment is no need for alarm, but it would be naïve for anyone to expect that Barbados can continue to ignore the issue of homosexuality indefinitely.
What we need is an honest national dialogue in order to forge a consensus on the rights of those who choose to be gay and those who oppose homosexuality as a lifestyle.
Holding extreme views on the matter, whether religious or irreligious, will not help us to find a mutually acceptable solution.
The fact is, Christians have a right to their views and members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Queer, Intersex (LGBTQI) community must respectfully come to terms with the fact that for Christians their position starts with the belief that the Bible is God’s word and the ultimate authority for determining God’s will; not human opinions, or liberal propensities. The two sides will differ about what the Bible teaches but that’s where a good conversation begins.
Equally, Christians cannot merely condemn, ostracize and be dogmatic about the LGBTQI community’s right to enjoy the same rights and protections of the law as Bible-believing heterosexuals. It is simply unchristian to dismiss the rights of a fellow human being.
A cohesive and harmonious society only emerges when we understand and try to accommodate those who are different from us, or who disagree with us.
The situation demands that both sides put aside their hard-line positions to find a resolution.
No doubt this will take some time, but there can be no better way than through a rational, frank, heart-to-heart talk as one Barbadian family.