Two sides of the Caribbean’s buggery law debate

downloadMaurice Tomlinson will challenge the constitutionality of Jamaica’s buggery law before the country’s Supreme Court in November. He has also been granted leave by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) to sue the governments of Trinidad & Tobago and Belize for the expression of their own anti-gay laws within their Immigration Acts, on the basis that these laws contravene free movement rights of CARICOM nationals within the Caribbean Single Market and Economy.

The former University of Technology lecturer fled Jamaica in 2012 when news of his marriage to a Canadian man hit local press, resulting in several death threats both from within the campus and among his fellow Jamaicans. And while he’s now openly gay, and today is one of the Caribbean’s leading gay rights activists, few are aware that he once sought out a Christian group in an attempt to cure his homosexuality.

Fewer know that he was actually married to a woman – doing “everything possible” to suppress his urges – before admitting that he was unable to ‘cure’ himself after four years of trying to live as a straight man. For Tomlinson, his experience has convinced him that it is impossible for a gay man to be anything but attracted to the same sex. And it is from this standpoint that he is now fighting anti-gay laws in his native Jamaica, Trinidad and Belize in the name of human rights.

But Tomlinson is up for a fight. A renewed Christian lobby has roared in the Caribbean – buoyed by the case of Professor Brendan Bain, who was fired in May as Director of the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training Network, for comments deemed supportive of anti-gay laws in Belize.

In a campaign staged across several islands, the Christian Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society (JCHS) stormed the media with ad spots declaring “Speaking Truth is Not Homophobia”, which centred on the main assertion that HIV disproportionately impacts gay men, and therefore, that the rejection of homosexual behaviour was “common-sense.” [. . .]

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