Tue | Jul 16, 2019

Buggery, polygamy through the back door? - PNP senator rails against bill that recognises ‘all forms of relationship’, but lobbyist, pastor say much ado about nothing

Published:Sunday | June 16, 2019 | 12:39 AMRomario Scott - Gleaner Writer

Opposition Senator Lambert Brown stirred controversy on Friday after accusing the Government of quietly slipping through the back door legislation that could give credence to homosexual practices in Jamaica.

Brown was making specific mention to a clause in the Trust Bill which was passed in the Lower House in February.

According to the bill, personal relationships include “every form of relationship by blood, adoption, marriage or combination regardless of whether the law of any jurisdiction recognises the validity, the legitimacy or existence of the relationship”.

Anal sex is outlawed in Jamaica, and the Constitution only recognises marriages between one man and one woman.

But Brown believes the clause to be unconstitutional.

“I have a big, big concern about this personal relationship and what we are about to let in. I can’t support this definition in this bill. I am asking the Government to reconsider this definition in the light of the Constitution,” he said.

Hinting that the 63-member House of Representatives was less thorough than the Senate, Brown suggested that he did not believe that Prime Minister Andrew Holness would endorse the wording in the bill, citing it as ambiguous.

Brown also took issue with another section of the bill stating that “a former personal relationship which has terminated in law or in fact, and a personal relationship also exists between two persons if a personal relationship exists between each of them and a third person”.

“Are we promoting polygamy? I don’t know, because nobody has explained this to us.

“Part of personal relationships include cohabitation, and if you look at the definition of cohabitation, you see it includes sexual relations,” the senator charged, urging the Government to redefine ‘personal relationships’.

The sitting was adjourned for further review of the legislation.

‘Nothing new’

However, gay-rights activist Jaevion Nelson blasted Brown and accused him of exploiting Jamaica’s historical unease with the cause of the lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender community.

“It is rather unfortunate that a member of the Senate would grandstand in this way about a legal definition which has little to no impact on the lives of LBGT Jamaicans and is in no way an attempt to introduce anything new to Jamaican law.

“For clarity, the Trust Bill, as we understand it, seeks to codify the common law on trust. If Senator Brown’s issue is the inclusion of cohabitational relationships, which include any two people living together, be they friends, lovers, strangers or family, then he should clarify why the Domestic Violence Act passed under the P.J. Patterson administration recognised that ‘members of the household’ could claim protection under the law. ‘Cohabitational relationship’ is, on the face of it, the same as ‘a member of the household’. This is nothing new,” Nelson told The Sunday Gleaner yesterday afternoon.

The Jamaica Council of Churches could not be reached for a comment on the matter.

However, Pastor Raymond Riley from the Holy Cross Church in Falmouth, Trelawny, said he found nothing wrong with definition as written.

“But the Government, I believe, should explain what things mean when you hear issues like these come up. Remember now, there is a lot of ignorance out there, and it’s not something that is easy to get rid of,” said Riley.

“So, the Government should explain and let us move on to making people’s lives more meaningful, and that is where we really want to focus as a church community,” he added.

One attorney who did not want to be identified said the definition could in no way compromise the law criminalising buggery.

romario.scott@gleanerjm.com