Orville Taylor | From the closet to my Cabinet?
Despite the declaration by one former prime minister that "the law is not a shackle", it is indeed binding, however inconvenient it might be. This erstwhile legislator, whose record as a heterosexual is impeccable, would probably disagree with Lord Denning that "the law is an ass". Nevertheless, as prime minister, you have to ride it to its logical application or you change it via an act of Parliament.
Just about 10 years ago, then Prime Minister Bruce Golding made his most famous 'bite of the weak' when he declared staunchly, "Not in my Cabinet!" This was in response to the question asked on the BBC Television talk show HARDTalk. It was a defiant retort, and in Jamaica, vociferous pockets of even his detractors shouted "BBC!" either because they were in support of his stance or his courage. Our prime minister, despite the Queen being our head of state, was not going to take any dictates from the UK with or without the French Connection.
It was an important point, and at the risk of gay tribalists stupidly labelling me homophobic, I was in agreement with what he said. In fact, as head of the executive, there is nothing else that he could have properly said.
On the other hand, another past prime minister, Portia Simpson Miller, without the benefit of forethought, when asked a similar question, responded in the affirmative. That was taken as a thumbs up by the homophiles, and there was great anticipation that the statute that makes anal sex unlawful was going to be repealed. No such luck, and if there was really a thumb up, it was hidden from public view because no move was made to change the legislation.
After all, Golding's Cabinet created a Sexual Offences Act in 2011, the swansong of that administration, which reinforces the existing penal code. True, it might have been considered 'phallatious', but Section 2 of the act defines sexual intercourse as heterosexual coitus: "the penetration of the vagina of one person by the penis of another person". Many gay males, waiting to get legal clearance for their normal activities, struggled with anginas as Golding and crew did not back down. Whatever, gay men do, under this statute is not sex and attempting to define it as such within the context of the Act is pure bull.
Reinforcing status quo
Moreover, Section 3 further reinforces the status quo, outlining that only a man can commit rape and it can only be done to a woman. Thus, a "... man commits the offence of rape if he has sexual intercourse with a woman - (a) without the woman's consent ...". Placing the male organ in any other orifice of the human body is "grievous sexual assault". As it stands now, Section 76 of the Offences Against the Person Act still outlaws "abominable crime of buggery", whether committed with mankind or any animal.
Passed one year before the Morant Bay Rebellion, this decadent legislation that intrudes into the bedroom of consenting adults even equates gay sexual contact with bestiality. Clearly, animals have no capacity to give consent, even if one believes that ewes or nanny goats in heat may, from time to time. And horses will tell you, let your neigh be nay. Nevertheless, as ridiculous as the law is, it still is in force and cannot be ignored.
As I said after Simpson Miller made her knee-jerk response, a prime minister, or any other legislator for that matter, must uphold the law. Myriad statutes are on our books that are as stupid as the man who hurries to water his plants amid a downpour of rain. I am still trying to find out why marijuana is illegal while cigarettes and white rum are sold freely. Why, for example, can a child legally give up her body to a rusty-back old man who swallows pharmaceuticals, yet she cannot vote to create an electile malfunction for the legislators who can't seem to understand that manhood and childhood are totally incompatible?
Even our more recent Child Pornography (Prevention) Act of 2009 defines a child as anyone below the age of 18. This creates a definitional and operational chasm because if an 18-year-old has sex with the 16-year-old child, nothing comes of it except that her father might put him to the cutlass. However, if he views and keeps a picture of her genitals, which she herself took and sent to him, he is guilty of child pornography.
Yet, if you ask me, I will stick my neck out and say that I believe that we have had myriad gay legislators of both sexes since 1944.
Nonetheless, current Prime Minister Andrew Michael Holness cannot morally and properly knowingly appoint any male gay person into his Cabinet, unless he keeps it on the down-low. Being gay is not a crime because it merely refers to orientation. In behavioural sciences, we may call it attitudes, values, or normative direction. In law, it is the mens rea, and despite what it sounds like, both men and women have it regularly. What is actionable is if you catch the individual in the actus reus. The question is whether or not Holness approves of gays holding parliamentary or any other position. If he knows that any of his colleagues is a criminal, however much he disagrees with the statute that outlaws the behaviour, he is bound to keep him out of the Cabinet.
Therefore, making a public declaration is one thing. When it is time to get the 'L' out of that public utterance is a different matter. So, speech is cheap. Let's see if Holness is willing to back it up with action.
Until he repeals the law, he cannot legally appoint any practising gay man to his Cabinet, and I doubt that the breakfront or buffet will substitute.
- Dr Orville Taylor is senior lecturer in sociology at the UWI, a radio talk-show host, and author of 'Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets'. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and tayloronblackline