Beware the changing tide

In a landmark ruling which has reverberated across the world, the U.S. Supreme Court last Friday redefined and broadened the traditional concept of marriage. By a 5-4 majority vote, America’s highest court determined that the right to marriage would be no longer limited to a man and woman, as it has been for thousands of years, but extended equally to same sex couples, both male and female.

The ruling represents a major victory for the gay rights movement in its global campaign to end discrimination against gays, lesbians, transgender and bisexual persons. On the other hand, it is a major disappointment for the religious community, especially the evangelical Christian right which had fought tooth and nail in defense of what they consider the sanctity of traditional marriage, based on their understanding of the Bible.

The reality is that the role of the law courts, in a secular society such as America and ours, is not to rule on the morality of an issue. It is to interpret the law and, on this basis, make a determination of cases brought for hearing. A role of religion, on the other hand, is to speak on the morality of an issue based on interpretation of Scripture. While religious adherents have the freedom to stand up for what they believe is morally right, they have no right in law to impose their views on others.

Interestingly, the U.S. ruling was delivered the same week that leading gay and lesbian rights activist, Donnya Piggott, was internationally recognized for her crusade to end discrimination against the local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. The founder of the Barbados Gays and Lesbians against Discrimination (B-GLAD) received the Commonwealth youth award for leadership on the issue from Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.

Such recognition is significant because it means the struggle for LGBT rights in Barbados and the Caribbean, by extension, has received international attention and support. In light of the U.S. ruling and the known pro-LGBT rights stance of Canada and most European governments with which the Caribbean has longstanding relations,  regional countries with laws seen as discriminatory against LGBTs, can expect more international pressure to enact LGBT-friendly legislation which conforms international human rights norms.

As much as the region may shout its opposition from the mountain tops, the fact of the matter is that when it comes to effectively standing up against the major Western powers, regional countries are powerless and therein lies our vulnerability. We are not islands unto ourselves, as some would have us believe. Because of the historic openness and dependence of our economies, we have always relied in large measure on economic exchanges with these countries for the quality of life we enjoy. Just a tourism boycott of Caribbean countries could be devastating.

We may very well be forced to accept that which goes against our religious and moral teaching. For as much as Caribbean public opinion remains overwhelmingly in favour of the death penalty, we have had to back off from its application because of international pressure? Predictably, the same too will happen with respect to LGBT rights. It could only be a matter of time before recognition of LGBT rights, becomes tied, for example, to a critical issue like debt relief in the not too distant future.

One Response to Beware the changing tide

  1. Tony Webster July 1, 2015 at 6:11 am

    Lord, I pray dat no “Aussie” types be reading BT dis mornin’.

    Based on a recent ruling, Amurica (or some other big-brain country) will have to deal wid anyone , like a lonely sheep-herder on 300,000-acre farm in the outback, who has developed an emotional attachment to a non-yooman “friend”, say, like “Mizzie;…the sweetest li’l darling sheep you evah did lay eyes (or whatever) upon. M’lud, I rise to point out to the honourable Supreme Justices of this very Supreme Court…that it is my clients’ (nota bene, de plural) Constitutuional Rights, to choose to live in harmony wid one anudder, as long as the both do so of their free will. Moreso, there are several United Nations charters, Treaties and Conventions-things, that already afford all manner of living creatures protection, and rights, an’ entitlements an ‘ summuch…, and all the Applicant seeks from the Court, is to do a li’l statutory house-cleaning and to remove a bit of ambiguity here and there.

    My clients wud like to get married , Sir, and it is their right. Effin the Court doan find for my first client, namely “Mizzie”, then I ask the court to find in favour of my second Client, namely my sheep-shearing goodly lad. It is so right, and just, and manifest, that it is only (if it please the Court) an idiot in legal robes, that would fail to support my humble proposals , Sir. I also hear dat there are several other countries , where people fall in love wid fish, Sir, and I references you…to my Bajan friends, where almost everyone in Barbados, wud like to know that they have the option of marrying their flying-fish, instead of just loving them…and then eating them. That be all, m’lud, and I ask for a swift ruling, as I have a whole lot of other matters before me today, down here in this Wonderland, where Alice- and your Court- resides.


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