Jamaican official appeals: Let me join gay-rights case

Arlene Harrison-Henry, Jamaica's public defender (Photo courtesy of the Jamaica Gleaner)
Arlene Harrison-Henry, Jamaica’s public defender (Photo courtesy of the Jamaica Gleaner)

Jamaica’s official Public Defender, Arlene Harrison-Henry, has appealed her exclusion from a lawsuit before the Jamaican Supreme Court that seeks to overturn the country’s anti-LGBT sodomy law.

Earlier this month, the court blocked the LGBT-friendly Public Defender from participating in the suit as an interested party, but opened it to nine conservative Christian groups.

Harrison-Henry alleges that the judge based his decision on errors of fact and incorrect interpretations of the law.

In her appeal, she stated about the decision:

“The effect … is to restrict the [ability] of the Public Defender to protect and enforce the rights of citizens in the face of the known existence of a community of persons who allege discrimination … on the basis of sexual orientation.”

Jamaican attorney Maurice Tomlinson, who filed the suit, stated that the court’s decision created “truly a David and Goliath situation, requiring me to respond to not only the government’s, but also the religious groups’ arguments.”

His legal challenge, which is supported by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and AIDS-Free World, argues that Jamaica’s anti-sodomy law violates the constitutional rights of its people.

The religious groups allege that they must participate in the case to defend the 1864 British colonially imposed anti-sodomy law that criminalizes all forms of intimacy between consenting adult males, even in private, because the statute protects their rights under the 2011 Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms. These rights they claim include freedom of religion, equality before the law, the right to a healthy environment, and the right to privacy. They also claim that gay men must be banned from having sex because that will inevitably lead to the exploitation of children.

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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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