OVER 500 activists, mobilised by T&T Cause – a coalition of local evangelical churches – congregated in front the Parliament building yesterday. It was the starting point of their peaceful march to protest the possibility that the High Court may rule against the constitutionality of buggery laws – all in defense of preserving family values.
In five days, the court is set give its ruling on LGBT+ rights activist Jason Jones’ challenge that TT’s buggery laws are discriminatory and therefore unconstitutional. “We want to make a statement to the government that no matter what the court’s decision, we as a population want the buggery laws kept,” Keith Ramdass, pastor at the Grace International West Indies Fellowship in Chaguanas, and one of the event’s organisers, told Newsday.
“The final position is with the executive and the legislature. We are saying to (the government) do not remove the buggery laws because once they are removed, it is the seamless introduction for the LGBT agenda into the legal and social fabric in our society,” Victor Gill, pastor from Redemption Christian Centre in Success Laventille and another organiser, added. Gill has gained some fame for his smaller protests in front of the Parliament and the High Court on Knox Street over the last few weeks.
The protest started at noon, where the activists, dressed in white, waving miniature national flags and armed with signs saying “Stand Up for A Cause”, “Consider the Children” and “Don’t Remove the Buggery Law” along with “Escape Hell”, “The End Is Near” and “Jesus is Coming,” thronged the sidewalk in front of the Parliament. Their march took them along the Brian Lara Promenade, up Frederick Street, ending in Woodford Square. And at Woodford Square, they encountered a counter-protest by a small group of LGBT rights advocates, clearly distinguished in the sea of white waving their rainbow flag. “We are here to be visible. Sexuality is fluid. Humans are meant to live in colour, not in black and white,” said Renelle White of the Silver Lining Foundation and the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action. The buggery law is being used to criminalise homosexuality, particularly male homosexuality, she added, and the problem with that is it continues to be fuel bigotry, anger and hate.” Her colleague Kennedy Maraj added that the group had been harangued with “the usual stereotypical nonsense” from the T&T Cause marchers, that decriminalisation of buggery would lead to the degradation of society. The group said, though, that it didn’t come to debate or argue with the protesters, they just came to be visible.
Whatever the judgement, human rights lawyer Gerald Ramdeen said, because of the way the Constitution is framed, specifically section six – the Savings for Existing Law, the buggery law will remain until the Parliament agrees to amend the legislation. When the Constitution was enacted in 1962, Ramdeen said, the Savings Provision was added to allow previous laws, passed under the Colonial administration, to remain enacted. The death penalty, for example, has been adjudged as “cruel and inhumane” and against constitutional guarantees of human rights, but it still remains law. It’s a circular argument, he said, because the Constitution is the law of the land. The court may rule something is unconstitutional, but it still, in effect, remains law. “Constitutional reform would solve the confusion. The time has come to look at it and modernise our laws,” Ramdeen said.