THE government says it will appeal yesterday’s High Court’s ruling that the law against buggery is unconstitutional, because it is “the only way the issue can be properly settled,” Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi has said.
“The rights of equality in the Constitution are clearly expressed. A first-instance decision is not the only decision to rely upon to settle the law. (An appeal) is only prudent so we can conclusively put the matter to rest,” he told Newsday in a brief telephone call.
The case will therefore be heard in he country’s highest court of appeal, the UK-based Privy Council.
He said there was still a process to be undertaken by the court, in which both parties have been invited to provide written submissions on how High Court judge Devindra Rampersad should treat with the offending law.
UK-based, Trinidad-born gay rights activist Jason Jones, who brought the lawsuit against the State to deem part of the Sexual Offences Act an infringement of his human rights as a gay man, had wanted the law struck down completely.
The government argued that doing so would have an impact on other parts of the legislation, which needed to be assessed.
Justice Rampersad is expected make his final decision on those positions in July.
Al-Rawi said an appeal had been expected one way or the other, largely because the matter had to be settled, and it would be irresponsible for the law not to be settled by the highest court of appeal. “This issue before the court and judgement affects consideration on both sides. Both sides are very heartfelt in terms of expressions by advocates.”
The law remains on the books as part of the country’s colonial history. In 1976, when the Republican Constitution was enacted, these older laws were retained by the Savings Provision, Section Six of the Constitution. This means even though the judge ruled it unconstitutional under section four, which lists the country’s protections of human rights, the law still technically remains official until it is ordered struck down or otherwise amended through the legislature.
Ironically, the buggery law in the UK, as it related to consensual relationships, and on which the local one is based, was repealed in in 1967.
Constitutional reform would likely lead to modernisation of these laws, but Al-Rawi said that would require bipartisan support, and the Opposition has not been forthright or forthcoming on that.