As Trinidad Readies To Rule On Sodomy Laws, Anti-LGBT Groups Warn Of The “Cancer” Of Same-Sex Marriage

"Having rights and being right are two different things."

Next week, the High Court of Trinidad & Tobago will rule on a case that could overturn the country’s buggery laws, which punish same-sex relations with up to 25 years in prison. The statute is rarely enforced, but still has a chilling effect on the country’s LGBT population.

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In February 2017, LGBT activist Jason Jones filed suit to have both Section 13 and Section 16 of the penal code nullified, claiming they violate his rights to privacy and freedom of expression. “I am doing this for the betterment of our nation, and for our future generations,” Jones said at the time.

Anti-LGBT groups are ramping up their efforts in advance of Justice Devindra Rampersad’s ruling, which is expected to be announced April 12. “Concerned Citizens for T&T” is calling for a demonstration outside the parliament building. Another faction led by Pentecostal ministers argues that if the buggery laws are repealed, same-sex marriage will swiftly follow. “Same sex marriage is a cancer,” said a spokesperson for T&T Cause. “We must keep the buggery laws, if it is removed it is a slippery slope to same-sex marriage.”

Members argue that if Jones were to win, it would put the rights of gay people ahead of the rights of heterosexuals which, they maintain, “are superior.”

“We are saying having rights and being right are two different things. You must respect the rights of others,” said Bishop Victor Gill, calling homosexuality “unnatural and illegal.”

“As the LGBTQI… whatever other letter, it is not a human right,” he added. “It is a human wrong.”

But LGBT rights groups on the islands insist allowing for personal freedoms won’t interfere with religious beliefs. “Faith groups will be under no obligation to change their teachings about moral sexuality within their congregations because of the court ruling,” says Colin Robinson, director of CAISO. “Even if same-sex marriage eventually became legalized in Trinidad and Tobago… such unions would be a civil matter. Nowhere in the world where same-sex marriages are recognized are faith denominations forced to marry persons of the same sex.”

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Robinson says he defends the right of groups like T&T Cause to hold particular views on sexuality and marriage, “but the role of the law, protected by the Constitution, isn’t to enforce any faith group’s teachings.”

A final judgement is probably years away, he added, as any ruling will almost assuredly be appealed by the other side. “Win or lose, religious believers will continue to be able to make arguments of law on matters of social policy to the courts.”

Even if Jones wins his case, though, anti-LGBT sentiment will not disappear overnight in Trinidad and Tobago, where many hate crimes go unreported. In addition, Under Section 8 of the Immigration Act, homosexuals who are not citizens are technically not allowed to enter the country. It’s not generally enforced, but an attempt was made to bar Elton John from entering the country in 2007.

Prime Minister Keith Rowley told parliament last year that all citizens deserve to live free of violence and harassment, “regardless of whom they sleep with.” He’s been reticent, though, to support a repeal of the sodomy law.

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