Dominica's anti-buggery law is about to fall- it's about time
Let consenting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) adults do whatever they want in the privacy of their homes. It's their right.
We strongly maintain that "no law or constitution", as Dominicans are now inclined to say, should make criminals of LGBTQ persons for exercising their human rights to free expression and association.
In our view, there are no ifs or buts about that.
As you may be aware, Dominica's antiquated anti-buggery law that criminalizes consensual same-sex intimacy, called buggery, is now being tested in the court before new judge Justice Jacqueline Josiah-Graham.
Making a decision on that case should be easy for Judge Josiah-Graham whom, we predict, will rule in favour of repealing that section of the law that violates the constitutional rights of LGBTQ people, if precedent at the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) makes any sense.
Note that in the recent past, members of the ECSC have repealed that section of their laws; Antigua repealed that section of the law in July 2022 and the state of St. Kitts and Nevis got rid of the law on 29 August 2022.
In arriving at a decision in the St. Kitts case Judge Trevor M. Ward declared that Section 56 of the Offences Against the Person Act, contravenes sections 3 and 12 of the St. Kitts and Nevis Constitution "namely, the right to protection of personal privacy and the right to freedom of expression, and, as such, is null and void and of no force and effect to the extent that it criminalises any acts constituting consensual sexual conduct in private between adults".
Justice Ward added that Section 57 of the St. Kitts Act also contravenes the Constitution "namely the right to protection of personal privacy and the right to freedom of expression, and, as such, is null and void and of no force and effect to the extent that it criminalises any acts constituting consensual sexual conduct in private between adults".
Thus, it is a matter of time before sections 14 and 16 of Dominica's Sexual Offences Act also become null and void. Even if you hate LGBTQ people, or love them, for whatever reason, you do not have the privilege of denying them the exercise of their rights to free association.
And again, we predict that the law, religion and politics will clash over the issue of the repeal of Dominica's anti-sodomy law. Evangelical church leader Pastor Randy Rodney made that abundantly clear last week when he spoke on Q95 FM on the on-going court case.
But, we argue, members of the evangelical churches, in particular, are deliberately putting on blinders on the issue of the rights of LGBTQ people as the Christian community, here and elsewhere, grapple with the dilemma of how to embrace homosexuals while not condoning their sexual orientation and lifestyle.
As if we can keep bees away from honey. That dilemma is most profound for the Catholic Church, in particular, the largest religious denomination in Dominica.
The Catholic church worldwide also has a major problem about how to deal with the gay men, and women, issue.
Elizabeth Dias wrote in the New York Times in February 2019 in an article titled: "It is not a closet. It is a cage. Gay Catholic Priests Speak Out" that "gay men probably make up at least 30 to 40 percent of the American Catholic clergy, according to dozens of estimates from gay priests themselves and researchers. Some priests say the number is closer to 75 percent".
So, we understand the dilemma confronting the Catholic Church.
To illustrate the point, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a text which contains dogmas and teachings of the Church, names "homosexual acts" as "intrinsically immoral and contrary to the natural law," and names "homosexual tendencies" as "objectively disordered." In addition, Pope Francis highlighted that dilemma about LGBTQ people when he stated unequivocally in 2013: "If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them?"
Nevertheless, some commentators have accused the Christian church generally of being selective in its condemnation of what it considers to be "sin" in society.
In an article in the Jamaica Gleaner entitled "Church picking on gays" Byron Buckley, a contributor, argues that "to be consistent, the Church should oppose, with equal energy, adultery, fornication, wife-swapping, incest, paedophilia and the high rate of broken marriages.
"The Church can't cherry-pick its favourite sin to oppose. Homosexuals see straight through this double standard and ask, 'Why discriminate and victimise us?'
Buckley further argues, and we concur, that "Christians have chosen to take their own meaning or emphasis from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah". But God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, Buckley says, not only because of homosexuality but for other excessive evils as well.
So, Dominican Christians stay silent about other evils floating around them like mist on top of mountains on a rainy day. For example: have you heard our Christians condemning, as loudly as they condemn buggery, widespread corruption and abuse of power that eats away, like cancer, at the core of their communities?
No, we haven't heard them; we never will.
But these Christians loudly and endlessly condemn homosexuality and same sex marriage.
So, when this archaic buggery law is repealed in the coming months, expect Christians to march in the streets and pray in the pews and lobby politicians.
Expect Christians to go bananas over the inevitable repeal of a very ancient law that criminalises a person's right to free association in a mature, modern, democratic society.
Expect Christians to preach that God will eventually destroy Dominica as He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah thousands of years ago.
But we also argue that Christians have a right to free expression, to support their church, to condemn whatever they believe they should condemn.