There is not, at this time, any campaign in Jamaica for same-sex marriages or unions and for the law to be amended to accommodate these.
What reasonable people, including this newspaper, have insisted upon isgovernment leadership against the prejudice and discrimination against gays, including the repeal of the most repressive symbol of such bigotry, the law against buggery.
This issue was recently reprised by the warning by Britain's prime minister, Mr David Cameron, that his government might cut off budgetary aid to countries that do not uphold human rights, including the oppression of gays and lesbians.
"Britain is one of the premier givers in the world," Cameron said in an interview in the margins of the recent Commonwealth summit in Australia. "We want to see countries that receive our aid adhering to proper human rights."
Should Mr Cameron hold his ground that British aid "should have more strings attached", Jamaica could be one of those countries affected. Britain is a substantial provider of development assistance to this country, especially in the area of security.
Although he did not muster the muscular not-in-my-Cabinet anti-gay remark of his predecessor, Mr Bruce Golding, Mr Holness catered no less to Jamaica's well-filled homophobic gallery, drawing in, for good measure, the matter of sovereignty. The gay-rights issue, he argued, was a matter that the Jamaican democracy was working through.
"We pay attention, as we are global citizens, to what people have said, including what our own people are saying," Mr Holness told this newspaper. "It is a conversation that is evolving."
We make two points on this score: gays, lesbians and all-sexuals, like heterosexual Jamaicans, are citizens of this country and should enjoy all the rights and privileges of their citizenship; and a test of a democracy is how keenly and effectively it advances and protects the rights and freedoms of the minority. With regard to homosexuals, Jamaica cannot claim to have done a good job.
PRIVATE ACTIONS, PUBLIC EFFECT
Our prime minister also made the point that "people's private actions have public effect", the relevance of which, in the context of this debate, we are not clear. It can't be that he believes that gay couples would engage in intercourse in a public square. Nor would such behaviour be expected of heterosexual couples, which, in any event, makes them liable for charges under the public decency laws.
What we advocate is to end this notion of the State as a legal voyeur monitoring the behaviour of consenting adults in their private spaces, which is a basic and logical starting point for a repeal of the buggery act and a larger move towards eliminating the discrimination and persecution of gays.
By maintaining antiquated laws that reinforce bigotry towards gays, Jamaica works against its economic interest, as can be attested to by the many blacklisted dancehall artistes whose music promotes homophobic hate. They likely represent only the tip of the proverbial iceberg of lost economic activity from a demographic which has significant disposable income, but which feels unwelcome to spend it here.
Mr Holness is new at the job and may be risk averse. But leadership is often just that - leading from the front.
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1) JFLAG Welcomes PM Stance On Anti-Buggery Law
The lobby group, Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) has welcomed comments by Prime Minister Andrew Holness for continued discussion on Jamaica’s anti-buggery legislation. Speaking with The Gleaner/ Power 106 News Centre this afternoon, J-FLAG’s executive director, Dane Lewis says Jamaicans will need to decide for themselves how to treat with the issue. Mr Lewis says his organization recognizes that a repeal of the buggery laws will not result in an immediate show of tolerance for the homosexual and transgender community. However, he says it is a beginning towards curbing discrimination.
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