THERE was a general consensus. The LGBTQI community is not focused on same-sex marriage but rather protection and equal rights. This was the sentiment shared by different LGBTQI groups yesterday.
Their comments after religious leaders held a joint press conference to “categorically state their opposition to same-sex marriage being allowed in this country as well as any amendment to equality laws to facilitate the LGBTQI community,” Newsday’s lead June 12 story said.
The group included Roman Catholic Archbishop Jason Gordon; secretary general of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha Sat Maharaj and head of the Evangelical Council of TT Desmond Austin among others. Instead LGBTQI groups said their focus was not on same-sex marriage but rather protection from discrimination.
Sharon Mottley of the Women’s Caucus of Trinidad and Tobago said it was unfortunate that the leaders would use this as they know it is a topic people battle with. “To even highlight it, knowing very well that the law already defines marriage in the context of male and female. That is already very clearly stated in the law,” she said.
She asked what was the purpose of raising it on Tuesday “expect and apart from getting people excited, nervous, fearful...and so they are playing the politics of fear...”
Mottley said it has always been a story of equal rights and the ability to live in a society free from stigma and discrimination. She said “to reduce all of that to simply a question of marriage is to do a disservice to the work that all of us have been putting in for all of these years.”
Caiso board member Dr Angelique Nixon believes the faith leaders have lost their way. “Instead of focusing on some of serious and pressing concerns facing the nation such as violence against women, crime and economic hardships, they are calling for discrimination against LGBTQI people. We should be very concerned about this. They are fuelling fear and spreading misinformation about gender and sexuality,” she said.
She too said the community’s focus was discrimination. “There have been no LGBTQI organisations that have put out a call to ask for or press the Government for same-sex marriage. That has not been on our agenda. Our agenda has been about protection against discrimination and finding ways to share the nation and be united,” Nixon said.
Jason Jones whose landmark case saw Justice Devindra Rampersad rule that sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act are unconstitutional, said the religious leaders have united to divide the nation.
On his Facebook page Jones said, “Shocking u-turn by the Roman Catholic Archbishop and a press conference full of lies, fabrications, and homophobic fear mongering! Shame on all religious leaders involved! You have united in order to divide our Nation!
Your bigotry and hatred is obvious to us all. Where was your conference on crime? murder? corruption? Nothing but you can unite in hate of LGBTQI citizens. Disgusting!”