Jamaica Observer:-GAY rights proponents all but found themselves in a clash with anti-gay participants at yesterday’s international religious leaders’ conference on anti-sodomy laws in the Commonwealth.
The forum was organised by local and international interest groups, at The University of the West Indies (UWI) Regional Headquarters in Mona.
The conference, which featured an array of church leaders from the Anglican Church and other religious sects, examined the buggery laws which exist across the Commonwealth and the Caribbean region and their impact on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.
Keynote speaker Rev Dr John Holder, archbishop of the West Indies, argued that the Bible does not support sodomy laws, which are relics of British colonisation, and that the text cannot be used for “homo bashing”, as all the references to homosexuality in the Bible “are sparse” and were used in specific contexts.
“It is not there in Leviticus, in Romans, even in Timothy… The text cannot be twisted in that way,” he said, arguing that if it is accepted that context determines interpretation, then the context in which the few scriptures that refer to homosexuality were used, cannot be ignored.
Dr Holder further maintained that the strong anti-gay sentiments that still exist in the Caribbean have more to do with culture than morality.
He stressed that strongly rooted in the Caribbean psyche is the importance of procreation.
“The reluctance of the former colonies to abandon sodomy laws may more be a cultural thing rather than a legal one, or even a moral one or religious one,” he said.
Holder said dialogue should continue on the issue if the countries of the region are to move beyond intolerance.
“This region is going to take some time to work through the issue, we must take this time to travel at our own pace. Let’s not see the pace of the journey as a waste of time or failure, no change in thinking is easy, but change is always possible,” he said.
Meanwhile senior Queen’s Counsel Lord Anthony Gifford, in his remarks, argued that Jamaica should reject a referendum on the abolishment of its buggery laws.
“I think we should set our face against this concept of a referendum. This is not an issue to be considered by a popular vote,” he said, referring to a determination by the post-apartheid South African Constitutional Court on the right to private intimacy in its own laws.
He further insisted that: “If it were you whose voices… if you were a minority opinion and you were being censored, you would say this is unjust,” pointing out that the Jamaican Constitution provides for the protection of private and family life and the privacy of the home.
Lord Gifford stressed that sometimes laws have to be changed or made despite the sentiments of the vast majority.
Tensions ran high at the session as some attendees at the two-day forum were openly infuriated at what they felt was an attempt at muzzling by the organisers. This led one woman to lash out at the chair, civil rights advocate Carol Narcisse, for insisting that a participant cease his line of comments.
Narcisse insisted that the forum must adhere to order and that all parties must maintain respectful conduct and that cross talking would not be allowed.
At another interval, rector of Christ Church (Anglican) Vineyard Town, Father Sean Major-Campbell inquired of the same participant, who attempted to protest remarks made by Dr Holder, whether he had a “q-u-e-s-t-i-o-n”, supported by howls of “What is the question?” from some obviously irritated members of the audience.
The discussions continue today.