Jamaica’s major newspaper backs LGBTI rights

Jamaica Gleaner logo
Jamaica Gleaner logo

Jamaica’s major daily, the Gleaner, today published an editorial supporting the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling and calling on Jamaica to take a similar course.

In contrast to the United States, the editorial states, in Jamaica “there is still much work to be done to lift official discrimination from large swathes of Jamaica’s citizens and to provide them with equality under the law.”

“Jamaica remains stuck on first base” on that issue, the Gleaner states.

Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller (Photo courtesy of PRI)
The Gleaner calls on Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller to stop delaying action of LGBTI rights (Photo courtesy of PRI)

The nation’s “anti-buggery” law, which dates from British colonial times and which conservative politicians and religious leaders defend fiercely, the editorial calls an “anachronistic” restriction that “maintains the State as voyeur.”

It describes the Jamaican ban on anal sex as “the basis for the illegality of ultimate sexual expression among gay men. Indeed, some heterosexual couples engage in anal sex, too. It is also antipathetic to same-sex marriage — an institution that presupposes the consummation of its fact.”

It adds:

“The [U.S. Supreme Court] decision followed last month’s landslide referendum vote in Ireland in favour of gay marriage, continuing a trend in progressive societies. Britain, France, Spain, South Africa, Brazil, Canada, Argentina, Sweden and Portugal are among the other countries where the practice is already legal.

“This is not some fad, or an attempt to advance some group’s so-called agenda or alleged lifestyle, as Jamaica’s anti-gay lobby, led largely by fundamentalist Christians, like to frame the debate. As uncomfortable as this may be for some of us, this issue, at its core, is the matter of fundamental human rights, including the right to human dignity and for individuals to exercise their right to choice, especially when that right does not impinge on the rights of others. …

“The American legal and constitutional factors applied by Justice Kennedy in his ruling are not totally at one with Jamaica’s. Indeed, marriage, as defined in Section 18(2) of Jamaica’s Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, is a ‘union between one man and one woman.’ But they are not incongruent with the larger principles upon which fundamental human rights must rest, if the individual is to enjoy his/her innate right to dignity.”

In the past, Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller called for action on the anti-buggery law, but has not fulfilled that promise. She also rejected her predecessor’s vow to appoint no gays to cabinet positions.

The editorial concludes, “With her revolutionary stance that contradicted the anti-gay, ‘not-in-my-Cabinet’ rhetoric, Portia Simpson Miller hinted at the courage to advance these rights. She must act.”

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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