Trinidad plans appeal to keep its anti-LGBT law

The government of Trinidad will appeal to reverse the High Court’s ruling on Thursday, April 12, that overturned Trinidad’s colonial-era laws against same-sex intimacy.

LoopTT reported:

Trinidad native Jason Jones on April 12, 2018, won the suit he filed against Trinidad's buggery law. (Photo courtesy of Washington Blade and Warren_Chanansingh)
Trinidad native Jason Jones on April 12 won the suit he filed against Trinidad’s buggery law. (Photo courtesy of Washington Blade and Warren_Chanansingh)

Minister in the Ministry of the Attorney General, Stuart Young, said during Thursday’s post-Cabinet briefing that the State plans to appeal a decision handed down by Justice Devindra Rampersad, who ruled in favour of human rights activist Jason Jones against the country’s buggery laws.

Rampersad said that Sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act are “unconstitutional, illegal, null, void, invalid and are of no effect to the extent that these laws criminalise any acts constituting consensual sexual conduct between adults”.

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said to LoopTT that the State’s reason for appeal was to settle the law at the highest courts due to the heartfelt, varying views of many segments of society.

The judgement today is a first instance judgement. This involves equality rights under the Constitution, in part, even though that was not the substance of the case per se, and therefore, in view of society’s strong views expressed on many different levels, it’s important that the law be settled as best as is possible.”

Faris Al-Rawi, attorney general of Trinidad and Tobago (Photo courtesy of Caribbean News Now)
Faris Al-Rawi, attorney general of Trinidad and Tobago (Photo courtesy of Caribbean News Now)

“It is always preferable to have the final courts of appeal pronounce upon matters so that citizens can rely upon a settling of the law. The government’s role in appealing is really quite simple, it is to cause a settling of the law.”

“If you were to divorce yourself from the judgement and simply look at the principle, it is necessary for the principles to be settled, and the best way, when there is a heartfelt view of matters where society is expressing views of different ends of the spectrum, it is imperative to settle the law and therefore the appeal is a matter of course.”

“If you were to leave the law unsettled, you run the risk of a second court, another High Court coming up with a contrary point of view. The particular law being tested is one of approximately 27 other laws that can be viewed to be discriminatory, and therefore if you were to go to court on another of these laws, a judge may come up with another point of view, both at High Court levels. That’s not uncommon…therefore, it’s important to settle the law, and the only way the law can be settled is through the appellate process,” he said.

The court said it will meet again to hear whether the offending sections should be struck down in their entirety along with the issue of costs.

In his judgement, Rampersad said the court must uphold the views of all, even if one person’s rights are infringed upon, but said the ruling is “not an assessment or denial of the religious beliefs of anyone”.

This conclusion is not an assessment or denial of the religious beliefs of anyone. This court is not qualified to do so. However, this conclusion is a recognition that the beliefs of some, by definition, is not the belief of all and, in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, all are protected, under the Constitution.”

“As a result, this court must and will uphold the Constitution to recognize the dignity of even one citizen whose rights and freedoms have been invalidly taken away.”

Under Section 13 of the Sexual Offences Act, a person who commits the offence of buggery is liable on conviction to imprisonment for twenty-five years.

The measure applies to intercourse between a consenting male and female or between two consenting males.

 

Trinidad and Tobago Newsday noted:

The law, part of the Sexual Offences Act, has been on the books as part of the country’s colonial history.

In 1976, when the Republican Constitution was enacted as the law of the land, these older laws were saved because of the Savings Provision, or section six of the Constitution.

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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, and editor/publisher of Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

4 Comments

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  1. On the one hand it is a set-back that the government will appeal the court’s decision, on the othe rhand, when the case is ending before the highest court possible, and the decisions is upheld that the articles referred to are indeed unconstitutional when and were it concerns adult consenting adults. the matter of sex between same-sex consenting adults is settled, and no one can argue against it anymore! The legal path can be long, but the end can be victorious, especially now there’s been a court decision declaring the relevant articles are unconstitional!

  2. Their economy is dead anyway…This should a warning to all LGBTQ not too spend money for the government to pocket.

  3. @doni
    It probably is me, and I am probaly missing out on some parts of the facts, but I fail to see the connection between the economic state of Trinida and the totally outdated law on preventing equality for all human beings in Trinidad, especially were the given info is to the courtcase and the appeal!
    Do enlighten me, I like to know what you mean!
    In my opinion, but it is ofcourse only that, an opinion, when there be equality for LGBTQ+, or at least decriminalisation of same-sex relations, including sexual relations, based on the fact of the prevention or continuing criminalisation of such relations being unconstitutional, there be a possible increase of trade, tourists, as well as for instance the development of a market for gay-tourists. When people are feeling free, they spend money more easier then when they are oppressed.
    Main purpose at the moment is to achieve the decriminalisation of being homosexual I think, and once that is a fact, the wholoe situation can and will change!
    But ofcourse, this is just my opinion.

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