Challenge to Jamaican anti-sodomy law gets under way

Maurice Tomlinson today at the Jamaican Supreme Court. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)
Maurice Tomlinson today at the Jamaican Supreme Court. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

At the first hearing of my constitutional challenge to the Jamaican anti-sodomy law held today [Feb. 23], the Public Defender (PD) applied to be joined as an Interested Party. The PD is seeking to exercise her statutory right and obligation to protect and promote the rights of Jamaicans.

[Editor’s note:  Jamaica’s Public Defender is Arlene Harrison Henry, who is a long-time ally of the LGBTI community.  She has taken part in demonstrations for LGBTI rights and briefly served as counsel for J-FLAG, the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays.]

However, the Attorney General’s office indicated that they will be opposing this application by the PD.

At the same time, the AG will NOT object to the application by the eight religious groups who have also applied to be interested parties on entirely irrelevant grounds.

Arlene Harrison-Henry (Photo courtesy of the Jamaica Gleaner)
Arlene Harrison-Henry says LGBT people “are entitled to equality, representation, and equal protection of laws.” (Photo courtesy of the Jamaica Gleaner)

For example, these fundamentalists claim that the 1864 British colonially imposed law MUST remain in order to preserve the population from imminent collapse (usual “gays can’t reproduce nonsense”); the law protects fundamentalists’ right to freedom of religion (because they can openly condemn gays); the law reflects the religious and moral views of the majority of Jamaicans, etc. etc.

Whenever I think that Jamaica is a secular state, these instances jerk me back to the sad reality that it is not.

The matter has been adjourned to April 26 when the applications by the various parties will be heard.

Jamaican women supporting my constitutional challenge

Angeline Jackson, executive director of Quality of Citizenship Jamaica, supports Maurice Tomlinson during a demonstration on Feb. 23. (Photo by A. Pierre Sobers courtesy of Facebook)
Angeline Jackson, executive director of Quality of Citizenship Jamaica, supports Maurice Tomlinson during a demonstration on Feb. 23. (Photo by A. Pierre Sobers courtesy of Facebook)

I am up against eight fundamentalist religious groups and the Attorney General in my constitutional challenge to the Jamaican anti-sodomy law.

Despite the overwhelming numbers, I am very humbled by and appreciative of the support by Quality of Citizenship Jamaica (the first registered group on the island advocating specifically for lesbian and bisexual women) as well as the Office of the Public Defender, which has applied to be an interested party. The Public Defender is also a woman and has joined us for “Stands for Equality” that I helped to organize.

We may be small in number, but the spirit of these women gives me strength!

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 info@76crimes.com.

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