Jamaican newspaper: Banning same-sex marriage is hypocritical

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

A leading newspaper in Jamaica has questioned the country’s ban on same-sex marriage, saying it amounts to “hypocrisy”.

In an editorial published today by the Jamaican Gleaner, the paper noted how heterosexual marriage is no longer “a particularly popular institution in Jamaica”.

It said: “For instance, according to the national census of 2011, nearly 70 per cent of Jamaicans over 16, the age at which people can legally marry, never did.”

The Gleaner also cited how divorce rates have steadily risen in the country.

“At the middle of the last decade, there were around 1,800 divorces annually, or approximately seven divorces per 100 marriages. By 2010, the number of divorces had climbed by 31 per cent”.

It added: “We draw attention to these statistics neither to ridicule nor undermine marriage, for this newspaper appreciates its potential as an institution of social stability and respect its centrality to Christian and other religious ideologies. But by taking the marriage to its contractual core, it bares the persistence of hypocritical and anachronistic attitudes that perpetuate discrimination.

“In Jamaica’s case, we refer to Section 28 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman, thereby ruling out the possibility of formal recognition of same-sex relationships.

“It is a provision that has its foundation in a deep-seated, if slowly receding, homophobia that has caused us to maintain the buggery provisions, which, essentially, criminalise male homosexuality and allows the State the role of commissar of sexual preferences and to invade the privacy of people’s bedrooms. It matters nought that the power is little used; its existence is chilling.”

The Gleaner suggested if equal marriage was legalised, people of religious faith would still receive legal protections.

“The religionists and churches who are not willing to embrace same-sex marriages, but who already co-exist in a morally plural society, need not fear that they may have to compromise their ideologies,” the paper continued: “While civil registers are not so precluded, ministers of religions who are marriage officers are exempt, at Section 8 of the Marriage Act, from performing weddings that are contrary to the rules of their denominations.”

The subject of LGBT rights has been creeping up the political agenda in Jamaica of late.

Last week, former Prime Minister PJ Patterson called for greater acceptance of gay Jamaicans.

The Jamaican criminal code prohibits sex between men and sentences for buggery can include 10 years imprisonment with hard labour.

Equal marriage is also banned. Several politicians have suggested a referendum on Jamaica’s buggery laws.

But leading Jamaican LGBT rights lawyer Maurice Tomlinson warned against the idea last month, saying a no result would hand victory to anti-gay supporters.

Mr Tomlinson also accused Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller of a “blatant betrayal” for refusing to abolish Jamaica’s buggery law.

As part of her election campaign in 2011 Portia Simpson-Miller vowed to review the legislation.

However, since then, the issue has remained unresolved.

On 4 April, Mrs Miller told reporters at Parliament: “We have to go to our constituents, consult our constituents and then we go with the decisions of those consultations.”

The Prime Minister refused to say when those consultations would take place.

“I can’t tell you when because you’re going to hold me to your timeline,” she said.

Mrs Simpson Miller said her government had to “take tough decision,” but added that the issue, “does not impact in a serious way the majority of our people who are poor.”