Sat | Dec 3, 2016

Portia reneges on gay promise

Published:Sunday | April 12, 2015 | 12:00 AMGordon Robinson

Finally, the rumour that National Heroine Nanny never existed is laid to rest.

Current political heroine, Portia Simpson Miller, settled the issue when, in response to heckling from an unruly set of gays in New York, asserted that the blood of Nanny ran through her veins. Hip, hip ... .

But the hecklers didn’t address Nanny’s lineage. They attacked Jamaica’s prime minister for making what’s now exposed as an expedient pre-election promise to take a small step towards Jamaican gay liberation, only to renege on that promise post election victory. In that regard, there’s no difference between those hecklers and others who acted similarly when Government tried, in 2011, to increase GCT on electricity.

Pete DeLisser’s excellent letter (Gleaner, April 7, ‘Go further than talk on gay rights, Madam PM’) put the issue in proper perspective. But there’s more.  Let’s take the example of two gay men, Adam and Steve. Rumours and whispers aside, nobody KNOWS they’re gay. One day, they go behind closed doors and express their love for each other sexually, including (horror of horrors especially to Christians who’d NEVER practise anything similar) anal sex.

I think almost everyone, including the most avid Bible-thumpers (forced by modern political correctness) will agree this is nobody’s business and the law oughtn’t to be kicking down bedroom doors to arrest them. Once neither Adam nor Steve practises his orientation publicly, tries converting others, or corrupting minors’ morals, despite the Bible frowning on their sinful ways, they can do as they like privately. Right?

Let’s take another couple, Adam and Eve, both single and unattached. Rumours and whispers aside, nobody KNOWS they’re involved in a torrid affair (aka fornication). One day, they go behind closed doors and express their love for each other sexually (anal penetration not included).  EVERYONE, including the most avid Bible-thumpers (forced by modern political correctness) will agree this is nobody’s business and the law oughtn’t to be kicking down the bedroom door to arrest them. Once neither Adam nor Eve fornicates publicly, encourages others to fornicate, or corrupts minors’ morals, despite the Bible frowning on their sinful ways, they can do as they like privately. Right?

If they want, Adam and Eve can, under Jamaican law, ‘legitimise’ their relationship by marriage, but Adam and Steve cannot. This is called discrimination. It’s the worst kind of discrimination because it’s based on religious bigotry in a nation that’s not, at least officially, a theocracy. Even if Adam and Eve were committing adultery (married to other people), the law allows them to ‘regularise’ their situation by divorce (also anathema to the Bible AND to Jesus) and remarriage without legal sanction.

Homophobes use the law to justify the discrimination, deliberately misunderstanding what’s law and law’s purpose. Law is a tool used to create order by devising a system of rules people agree to obey. Law is intended to serve society, NOT the other way around. Laws that don’t serve society are obsolete or unjust and must be abolished.

This is why the legislative process is structured to be conducted by elected people’s representatives and why the concept of an appointed Senate (no matter how ‘independent’) reviewing legislation is so backward, colonial and anti-democratic. The process is further corrupted by participation to the point of dominance by the executive.

Although, in theory, a ‘law’ represents agreement to obey, ‘laws’ have been passed in unrepresentative ways for purposes other than good order. For example, laws have been passed by a majority to oppress and suppress a minority (e.g., Jim Crow laws). Imperial laws have been passed by foreign legislators to keep nations as satellites subservient to foreign imperatives (e.g., colonial laws). Laws have even been passed by a minority to oppress and suppress the majority (e.g., South Africa’s apartheid laws). These laws, although passed with the majority’s ‘consent’ (or, as was the case in South Africa, the majority of those permitted to vote), are unjust and must be disobeyed.

One such law is what Jamaican homophobes casually call the buggery law, which provides:

“Whosoever shall be convicted of the abominable crime of buggery, committed either with mankind or with any animal, shall be liable to be imprisoned ... .”

This originated in a 1533 UK statute (attracted the death penalty); was imposed on Jamaica as colonial law; but capital punishment removed in 1861. It’s the same act used to disgrace and sentence World War II hero Alan Turing (acknowledged as the father of artificial intelligence, aka ‘computers’) to chemical castration, which drove him to suicide.  

It’s named The Offences Against the Person Act. I wonder against whose ‘person’ this crime is committed? The relevant section is subtitled ‘Unnatural Offences’.

Apparently, the identical act between man and woman isn’t ‘unnatural’ or an ‘offence’ against any person. So, what makes the actions of two specified consenting adults illegal? It’s the good ol’ discrimination/bigotry combo. Want fries with that?

Its arbitrary and discriminatory nature is exposed by the logical contortions attempted by defenders to keep it alive. Persons whose opinions I admire and for whose right to express these opinions I’m prepared to die, if necessary, will tell you male homosexuality results in a higher risk of HIV/AIDS. For those of you living under a church on a rock, AIDS is a chronic, incurable modern disease spread by a virus, HIV (transmitted in bodily fluids including blood).

The virus is treatable, can be carried for life without developing into AIDS, but carriers can infect others. HIV has been passed in pregnancy to children, but modern care has practically eliminated this. Today, with proper care and treatment, people with HIV can have improved quality of life and reasonable health much of the time.
Religious propaganda labels AIDS a gay disease. Genital herpes, transmitted similarly, is not so labelled, nor is syphilis or gonorrhoea. But we don’t criminalise fornication or adultery. Perhaps we should. 

Sickle-cell anaemia is a chronic, incurable but treatable lifelong disease. It’s hereditary. People who inherit a sickle gene from one parent and a normal gene from the other have a condition called sickle-cell trait. People with  sickle-cell trait don't have sickle-cell anaemia and won’t ever develop it, BUT, if they reproduce with another sickle-cell carrier, sickle-cell anaemia can be passed to their children. With proper care and treatment, many people who have the disease can have improved quality of life and reasonable health much of the time. 

Perhaps we need a law criminalising sex (and marriage) between sickle-cell trait victims?

Type Two diabetes, a lifestyle disease, the predilection to which runs in families, has far more devastating medical consequences than HIV.  Regardless of treatment, vascular sequelae begin after about 10 years and disastrous consequences almost irrevocably follow (e.g., blindness, stroke, cardiac disease, kidney problems, limb loss or impotence).

This chronic, incurable disease, even with treatment, can result in the shutting down of every organ in the body.
Perhaps we need a law criminalising fast food and sugar. But, let not thy heart be troubled, Jamaica’s public health is in the safe hands of the buggery law.
Then there’s the defence of religious homophobes that they hate the sin but love the sinner. They don’t preach hatred/violence against gays. No?
“Leviticus 20:13 

If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have       committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death ... .”
Need I say anything more? C’mon, man!

So, we have a prime ministerial candidate who promises one small step for the LGBT community. As prime minister, she reneges on that promise and closets herself from media. When she’s finally heard in public (overseas, of course), she’s rudely heckled by gays. Oh, dear.

The “blood of Nanny”, indeed! If she’d been heckled by a group of environmentalists about the Riverton fire and dared to respond in such a holier-than-thou way, local media would’ve nailed her to a cross for Easter.  But, because it’s only gays ... .

Britain, which imposed the buggery law on us, matured and repealed that human-rights disgrace in 1967. In 2009, British PM Gordon Brown officially apologised to Alan Turing for “the appalling way he was treated”. And, in 2013, Queen Elizabeth granted him a posthumous pardon.

You see, it’s simple. Either you’re for or against human rights. If you’re for human rights, you’ll condemn the PM for reneging on a pre-election promise to improve Jamaica’s human-rights record and avoiding public discussion on her default.

If you’re against human rights or for human rights only for some humans, she’s your heroine and the “blood of Nanny” indeed runs through her veins. 

Peace and love.

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.

*This headline was changed from 'Portia a coward, hypocrite' to reflect a more accurate description of the author's piece.