Jamaican lawsuit seeks OK for gay respect TV ad

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nLwxK9R99k]

‘As a Jamaican, I respect you and I love you.’

Court action got under way yesterday, May 27, in the lawsuit by gay activist attorney Maurice Tomlinson against Jamaican television stations for refusing to air the 30-second advertisement “Love and Respect.”

The ad, which promotes recognition of the humanity of LGBT people, was rejected by Television Jamaica (TVJ), Public Broadcasting Corporation (PBCJ) and CVM TV.

TVJ employee Dionne Jackson Miller described the day’s events in a blog post that Tomlinson called “very balanced.” These are excerpts from that account:

Mr. Tomlinson is seeking:

  • a declaration that refusing to air an ad promoting tolerance for homosexuals breached his constitution rights to freedom of expression and freedom to distribute or disseminate information, opinions, or ideas through any media;
  • order for TVJ and CVM to air the ad in exchange for the standard fees;
  • damages.

Here’s a summary of the major issues and proceedings from the first day:

The 30-second spot, dubbed the “Love and Respect video” by the claimant, and which can be seen here, was shown to the court at the start of the proceedings.

Lord Anthony Gifford
Lord Anthony Gifford

Lord Anthony Gifford, lead counsel for Mr. Tomlinson, instructed by Anika Gray, submitted that the video was dignified and restrained. He said that only a very intolerant person would take exception to it.

He said the language of the new Charter of Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which only came into effect in 2011, indicated that parliament intended for the rights outlined therein to prevail unless there were limits that could be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.   NB That issue of what can be “demonstrably justified” is a key element of the Claimant’s arguments, the argument being that the refusal to play the ad was not be demonstrably justified. …

He argues that in the case of mainstream media, they wield significant power, and raised concerns about them excluding certain areas of public debate.

Justice Pusey: In an open market, the market will punish them.

Lord Gifford: Not necessarily. Minority views, unpopular views also have to be heard.

Justice Sykes: You are proposing that every refusal (to air an ad) is a restriction (on constitutional rights) and then you have to go through the steps to see if the restriction is permissible?

Lord Gifford: That’s what the constitution says. …

[Lord Gifford also rebutted the TV stations’ reasons for rejecting the ad. In]  relation to CVM’s position that the station was concerned that airing the ad would be viewed as an attempt to promote homosexuality, he stated that the ad did not promote homosexuality.

In response to the concern that the ad could be seen as promoting a criminal act (buggery), Lord Gifford submitted that it is not illegal to be a homosexual and also stated that the ad showed an auntie showing love for her nephew, and could not be seen as promoting a criminal act.

He also said that it was “hard to swallow” the argument that the video would cause so much offence that advertising revenue would be affected, especially since the station had aired other programmes about homosexuals.

Tomorrow: Lord Gifford will have another half an hour to wrap up his submissions and then the defendants will begin to make their submissions.

For much more information about the day’s events, see the full blog post: “Highlights – Day 1 – Maurice Tomlinson v TVJ, CVM and PBCJ.”

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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