I was appalled to read that Jamaica’s Attorney General, The Hon. Marlene Malahoo-Forte, Q.C., M.P., tweeted that the U.S. embassy was being “disrespectful of our laws” by flying the rainbow flag as a show of sympathy following the tragic shooting in Orlando.
In one of the largest mass murders by gun in recorded U.S. history, 49 people lost their lives, and more than 50 were injured – and most of the victims were members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. The U.S. embassy therefore exercised their right under well-established international law to fly their own and the rainbow flags on their sovereign territory.
I would have expected that, as a former junior minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, the AG would understand the basic principle of sovereignty of foreign missions.
Further, while it is unconscionable that Jamaican law continues to criminalize consensual sex between men — contrary to international human rights treaties we have ratified — lesbian sex has always been legal. And, most importantly, simply being gay or lesbian, or being in an LGBT club or venue with friends, is not a crime.
So, I would presume that if Jamaican LGBT people were similarly massacred, our own government would seek to honour their deaths. Jamaican law has always prohibited murder, and there has never been an exception for gay and lesbian victims.
Finally, the AG should know that flying a flag is an exercise of the freedom of expression guaranteed under our Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms not just to citizens, but to anyone in Jamaica.
In one tweet, our AG has revealed her deep-seated homophobia nurtured by her membership in a right-wing evangelical church. She has also demonstrated an embarrassing ignorance of international, constitutional and criminal law.
These facts are in themselves shameful, insensitive and sad, and Mrs. Malahoo-Forte owes all the mourning families in Orlando, the United States government, the legal profession, and indeed all Jamaicans – especially members of the LGBT community – an apology.
However, most egregiously the AG made an international incident out of the national grief of our major trading partner. That is disgraceful and unprofessional.
When she was publicly confronted by many Jamaicans about her breach of protocol and demonstrated callousness, the AG claimed that she was simply expressing her private opinion to which she was entitled. However, this statement further reveals her lack of judgment because as a government minister she should understand that these kinds of utterances will be attributed to the state of Jamaica that she represents.
The Prime Minister had already expressed his condolences to America for the tragic events in Orlando. He now needs to do some damage control to salvage our international reputation. The AG must apologize or the PM must do so for her.
- Malahoo Forte says flying rainbow flag disrespects Ja laws, US Embassy wants explanation (June 14, 2016, Jamaica Observer)
- Malahoo Forte under fire over tweet denouncing gay-rights flag at US Embassy (June 14, 2016, Jamaica Gleaner)