Sun | May 28, 2017

Linton Gordon: Gays and the Jamaican economy

Published:Sunday | July 12, 2015 | 7:00 AM
Linton Gordon
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The recent decision by the Supreme Court of the United States of America that gave legitimacy to same-sex marriage will have serious implications for Jamaica.

It is well known that a vast majority of Jamaicans oppose homosexuality. Also, it cannot be denied that there are instances where persons here

in Jamaica come under attack, criticism and ridicule for homosexual orientation.

In 2009 when the Sexual Offences Act was passed, several sections of the Offences Against The Person Act that dealt with sexual offences were repealed and provisions made in the Sexual Offences Act for those sections that were repealed.

However, Section 76 of Offences Against the Persons Act that makes buggery a crime was never repealed. A distinction ought to be made, fine as it may be, between homosexuality and buggery.

Two women can be involved in a homosexual relationship. However, they would not be able to commit an act of buggery within the meaning of Section 76 of the Offences Against the Person Act.

It is possible for two men to be involved in a homosexual relationship without committing buggery. Buggery, in its strict sense, involves anal penetration with the use of the male sex organ.

Thus, on a strict interpretation of our law, an act of homosexuality, that is to say, a man in love with a man, is not, by itself, a crime. The act must go on to involve buggery for it to be a crime.

economic opportunity

Only this year Ireland voted 62-38 to legalise gay marriage. Buggery was illegal in Ireland up to 1993. The Irish economy went through an extremely difficult period and it appears that the citizens have heeded a wake-up call and are now prepared to do anything that accommodates and facilitates investment and the provision of economic opportunities.

If we do not address our buggery law earnestly and urgently, we could see a serious fallout, particularly in our tourism sector. To the credit of most players in the tourist industry, the question of homosexuality has long been dealt with in a careful and sensitive way.

Several of our hotels have a don't-ask, turn-a-blind-eye policy towards same-sex couples turning up at their hotels. They prudently pursue this approach, as to do otherwise may result in media exposure, embarrassment and the blacklisting of their hotels.

There are workers in the tourist industry who have an uncompromising opposition to homosexuality. However, they humbly and quietly serve homosexual couples in the hotel at which they work, as to do otherwise is to do without their job.

It is my opinion that the time has come for the Government and the Opposition to discuss the ruling of the Supreme Court of United States of America and its implications for the Jamaican economy. We need to move from a simplistic and cheap popularity approach to reality.

We are now likely to have two men turn up at our seaports, airports and at our hotels, with one man designated the husband and the other the wife.

If we turn them away either at the airports or the hotels, there will be a great upheaval in the media in the United States of America and this could adversely affect arrivals from that market. Second, we will see same-sex couples turn up in Jamaica to do business and to attend functions. We cannot deny the fact that there is frequent travel between the US and Jamaica.

My suggestion is that both the Opposition and the ruling party agree on a policy of educating our people on tolerance, understanding and a sense of accepting the reality of what has been taking place in the world.

It might be that the time has come for us to change our laws to provide that what takes place between consenting adults in the privacy of their home is no business for the law.

Whatever is decided, the emotional outburst and cheap popularity will not be the best solution. The best solution is to pursue a policy that will ensure that the interest of Jamaica is not harmed and destroyed by us taking a hard line on a matter that require us to change our tactics and strategies in order to protect our economy.

- Linton P. Gordon is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and lpgordon@cwjamaica.com.