Barbados Today:–  A local church leader is speaking out in support of a move by members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community to be heard.

Chairman of the Barbados Christian Council Canon Noel Burke pointed out today that the question of rights was currently under discussion globally, stressing that everyone had a right to be heard, no matter their sexual preferences.

“We have to ensure that no human being is discriminated against on the basis of their gender or their sexual orientation. So every person has that right to participate in all of the areas and enterprises of human life. Persons of the LGBT community have every right to go to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to put their case forward to have every right to be heard,” the Anglican cleric said, amid a challenge to the island’s buggery laws in the form of a petition that is due to go before the IACHR tomorrow.

The petition is being led by 24-year-old trans woman Alexa Hoffman, who is seeking to end the criminalization of consensual sexual activity between same sex partners above the age of consent.

“Suffice it to say that these laws have been on the books for far too long and are causing a lot more damage than they are intended or expected to, given that they invade a person’s rights to privacy in terms of consenting adults being able to more or less show intimacy through whatever ways they see fit,” Hoffman explained.

The transwoman argued that over the last 25 years Sections 9 and 12 of the Sexual Offences Act have been used to target gay men and lesbian women who engage in any form of sexual conduct.

“That is an unacceptable situation in a society where persons should be able to show intimacy however they see fit as long as they are both consenting adults and within compos mentis. It is just high time that the laws have to go,” Hoffman told Barbados TODAY.

In support of that position, Canon Burke told Barbados TODAY he felt strongly that the time had also come for the Church to “break down the barriers”, sit down and have a discussion on the LGBT issue.

“But the urgency cannot be determined by the Church. The urgency will have to be determined by those persons who are affected or disaffected. They determine the urgency [and] certainly any discussion is between the legal system, the social system, certainly the voice of religion, the voice of the Church and certainly in the Caribbean, the voice of the Christian Church.”

He contended that while some may argue that only a small section of the community make up the LGBT community, “the fact that they maybe . . . a minority does not hamper the fact that there ought not to be some level playing field where we can all sit down together, have a discussion
. . . and put forward our positions and say how we feel about the matter”.

With that said, he warned that the Church and the religious community may continue to hold fast to its traditional position on same sex issues.

“The Church may continue to state that relations between men and men or between women and women fall far from the ideals that we see expressed in sacred scripture for example and in the tradition of the Church. That to has to be brought to the table, that too has to be fleshed out and the fact that the Christian Church traditionally shied away from issues pertaining to the topic of sex.

“From a Christian prospective we have to be able to meet people where they are and hear what they are saying, offer prospectives to see where we can meet and where the discussion takes us, but I don’t think the Christian Church can shut the door and say, ‘your lifestyle is such and we can’t accommodate and we don’t want to hear you’. That’s not a particularly Christian view,” he insisted.

Also commenting on the issue, outspoken Queen’s Counsel Andrew Pilgrim said: “I believe adults should be free in their sexuality” while suggesting that the new Mia Mottley-led Government will have to look at the issue more closely.

“Here is an opportunity to push humanity over discrimination and pseudo Christian views,” he told Barbados TODAY, adding that should the IACHR rule in favour of the LGBT community the country should conform since Barbados is a signatory.

However, Pilgrim acknowledged that countries have sought to ignore treaty obligations and court rulings before, such as those pertaining to the death penalty.