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Jamaica commentary: Denial of same-sex marriage denies human rights

Jamaica ignores human rights in its rejection of same-sex marriage, says Jamaican-Canadian activist Maurice Tomlinson, who has challenged the ban in court.

Jamaican flag
Jamaican flag

By Maurice Tomlinson

After a lengthy seven months delay, the Jamaican government finally responded to my petition before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) challenging the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.  In its response the government made some expected but illogical arguments, which reflect the level of cognitive dissonance that has infected our society when it comes to the human rights of LGBT people. [Click here to read the 15-page legal response “Observations by Jamaica on Admissability”.]

Tom Decker (left) and his husband Maurice Tomlinson
Tom Decker (left) and his husband Maurice Tomlinson

Most egregiously, the Attorney-General’s office claims that Jamaica does not have to recognize my marriage because many other countries don’t.  By that logic, the fact that at one point in history most countries in the world didn’t recognize equal rights for racial and religious minorities or women was perfectly fine!  Such spurious reasoning rooted in cultural relativism was what caused the world to look on in paralysis while the Holocaust raged in Nazi Germany.

We now know that human rights exist, simply because we are humans, whether states choose to recognize them or not.  That is why we have international treaties, such as the American Convention on Human Rights that Jamaica signed decades ago, which emphasize the primacy of human rights over national prejudices.  And as the Inter-American Court of Human Rights – the body that interprets the Convention – held categorically in 2017, the right to same-sex marriage is inextricably linked to the right to family.

Jamaica may choose to ignore my human rights, but it should know that it does so in clear violation of its international obligations, while also standing firmly on the wrong side of history.  But, in the end, justice will prevail for, in the words of MLK Jr. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

 

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