Tolerance (Sunday Herald Editorial June 1, 2008)

Stokeley Marshall

Minister Bruce Golding’s recent comments on homosexuality in the now famous BBC interview may never be forgotten. He stated in clear, unequivocal terms that whilst homosexuals may be in a future Jamaican Cabinet, it would not be in his.
I agree with the remark in principle. However, the manner and tone in which he made the comments reflected the age-old attitude of many Jamaicans who still tend to look down on homosexual acts as the worst vice. I do not think Jamaicans are really homophobic. What the average Jamaican does not approve of is the open expression of homosexuality.

There are homosexuals who live among us, in the inner-city and elsewhere. Others either work or have worked with us. This includes serving in government on both sides of the political fence. However, the message remains that whilst you may live and work among us, do not expect that your lifestyle will be accepted by mainstream society.
This is contrary to the dominant ethos in certain developed countries in the West. It is politically incorrect to be critical of homosexuality in England. Clearly England is not Jamaica. So while the Prime Minister’s comments resonate with the average Jamaican, they will find little fertile soil in Britain. Several years ago, our Sandals hotel chain learnt that the hard way when it was forcefully influenced to alter the message in its visitor policy that had stated, “heterosexuals only”. The right to privacy?Based on the Prime Minister’s comments on the BBC, he seemed to acknowledge that persons will continue to conduct their sexual relations in private and that in time, the Jamaican people could shift their thinking somewhat on how people may wish to live their lives.
This could provide an opening that in the future, once the Jamaican people decide to permit same sex relations, whether in public or private, then maybe there could be shifts in the government’s position on this matter. This would be in keeping with democratic ideals that espouse rule by the majority.
What the PM was clear on is that no overseas lobby group would impose its will on the majority of Jamaicans. I see nothing wrong with that. In fact, it shows strong and bold leadership in the face of strong overseas opposition. As to whether some agree with his stance is another matter.
On the issue of privacy, the existing Constitution has no right to privacy that would include the right of consenting adult homosexual males to engage in same sex relations. However, we have signed onto international agreements such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
In that agreement, the right to privacy has been interpreted in the well-known human rights decision in Toonen vs. Australia, to include adult male consensual homosexual relations. If our draft Charter of Rights, which includes that right, were passed into law, it could allow such sexual relations unless some special provision were made to exclude it.
However, merely qualifying the right to privacy may not preserve the heterosexual nature of our laws on sexual relations, because one cannot predict if a court (to include the Privy Council or the Caribbean Court of Justice) will uphold the exclusion of same sex relations. This potentially places pressure on our anti-buggery laws. So in my view, the Prime Minister’s respect for the privacy of persons, if made a right under the Charter, could (unknowing to him) challenge his BBC comment — “Not in mine” (Cabinet).Science and social policyI recall that during the 2007 election debates, the People’s National Party’s (PNP) Dr. Peter Phillips squared off with the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) Dr. Kenneth Baugh. Dr. Phillips was asked a question on fundamental rights as they relate to homosexuality, and in response, he asserted that there is no fundamental right to engage in those acts, that is, homosexual acts (paraphrasing). However, Dr. Baugh made a remark that I think is often forgotten. He indicated that the matter includes a scientific side that requires examination.
In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association de-listed homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. According to Wikipedia, this followed “controversy and protests” by homosexual activists at the association’s annual conferences from 1970—1973, as well as new material from researchers such as Alfred Kinsey and Evelyn Hooker. Their findings have been challenged and there has been furor that the de-listing was really political and not scientific.
In April 2008, prominent Spanish psychiatrist Enrique Rojas declared that 95 per cent of homosexuals became so inclined as a result of environmental factors, and that homosexuality is “a clinical process that has an etiology, pathogeny, treatment, and cure”. This places pressure on the view that homosexuality is innate and unchangeable, as is race.
Another noted psychiatrist, Dr. Robert Spitzer, who reportedly played a major role in the 1973 de-listing, stated a few years ago that based on a more recent study: “I thought that homosexual behaviour could be resisted, but sexual orientation could not be changed. I now believe that’s untrue — some people can and do change.”
In February 2008, Matt Foreman, then outgoing executive director of The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, challenged his own gay activist community by siding with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pro-family organisations and a growing number of homosexual activists who have been willing to admit that homosexual behaviour is both extremely high-risk and primarily responsible for the spread of HIV/AIDS in the United States.
This is not a licence to beat homosexuals or push them out of their jobs. For the record, I wish to register my disgust at the beating of homosexuals and those who describe themselves as transgender persons (although I am of the view that such reports are exaggerated), as well as the general scornful manner that many are treated with in certain quarters, to include some churches. It is wrong for persons to be ill-treated and made to feel “less than” because of some deviation in their behaviour, particularly if it does not pose any instant threat to society.
Hopefully, such biases will stop and those who have strong moral convictions against homosexual behaviour will learn to still love the homosexual and try to encourage the desired behavioural change through love and moral suasion and not by physical force. A continuation of such force, even in the few cases, would set the stage for the acceptance of homosexuals by the force of legislation. Which do you prefer? That’s how I see it. See you on Sunday, June 15.

Stokeley Marshall is an attorney-at-law.
He may be reached at stokeleymarshall@gmail.com
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Author: GLBTQ Jamaica Moderator

Activist and concerned gay man in Jamaica with over 19 years experience in advocacy and HIV/AIDS prevention work, LGBT DJ since 1996.

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