Orville Taylor | I stand by my last article
In response to my commentary on Sunday last, a senior trade unionist friend of mine and an attorney struggling against obscurity provided two letters of diatribe last week. Given the Jamaican cliche about two making one, I will address them both here, and, hopefully, add some clarity.
In a country that has risen to number six on the World Press Freedom Index, I defend the right of freedom of expression, whether or not I agree with the speaker. My basic rule is that it be civil and not descend into childish or churlish personal swipes or people appealing to their professional or other personal definers in order to make an argument stronger.
Indeed, copious research in behavioural sciences points to a range of psychological conditions that are evidenced by one's scent marking their professional discipline to win an argument or to convince oneself that they are worthy or others are less. A public discussion on an important matter is no space for that. In response to my analysis of Prime Minister Andrew Holness' comment that he would appoint an individual who is believed to be routinely carrying out the criminal act of buggery, attorney-at-law Glenroy Murray used the truism of a moniker 'Mr Not a Lawyer' to describe me.
Of course, if he thinks that this is an insult, then his stature as an intellect is as fragile as his masculinity. Nonetheless, I am deeply disappointed that he totally missed the point.
First, a non-lawyer reminds him that all lawyers are bound to obey all laws in the land, whether or not they find them repugnant. Moreover, Parliament (which designs and can change the Constitution) is the ultimate source of law. And laws are passed by non-lawyers not practising attorneys, even if they are lawyers.
Obligated to obey
Finally, the chief legislator, and all lawyers, including Murray, are obligated to obey every single act of Parliament in force, whether or not it disturbs the pleasure of any man, woman, or beast.
My argument was, and still is, simple:
i) Our buggery laws make anal sex, which can only be carried out by males, criminal.
ii) The prime minister, if he knows that someone is a practising breaker of this law, is breaching his mandate to uphold all of the laws of the country,
iii) anyone who engages in anal sex with another man, a woman, or animal, commits buggery and is a criminal,
iv) since Holness feels that the statute is unjust, he should be brave and bring a new statute to Parliament to repeal it.
Murray, an attorney, cannot speak with two tongues. If he is so hurt by the statute, he has recourse to test it in court. After all, I am sure that he can find something deeply hidden in the secreted cracks of the Constitution that says that 'discrimination' based on sexual orientation is unlawful.
Murray, an expert in behavioural sciences, disagrees that sexual orientation is the mens rea for buggery. Let me say this slowly and he might get it. It is Parliament that determines that a behaviour is evil or wrong in law even if the conduct is morally proper such as fighting for one's freedom under slavery. Men who are oriented towards having anal sex have what in law is the mind to commit an unlawful act, and they have it continually, but especially, when they are about to consummate their desires.
Nothing in my column introduced, supported, or used the psychological concept 'homophobia', which somehow he felt needed to be slipped in. Moreover, my like-minded high-school peers who are now lawyers clearly understand the subtle undertone of my mens rea reference. Hopefully, the brilliant Murray will get it in the coming weeks.
In the other letter, I was hoping that my respected pro-worker colleague Lambert Brown, a man brighter and more knowledgeable than 90 per cent of all lawyers I know, would've spoken to the myriad changes in the labour laws that I have recommended since the late 1990s. Then, Portia Simpson Miller was minister of labour. Many of these have to do with true equality at the workplace, protection from discrimination based on HIV status, sexual harassment, and, of course, protection for security workers.
Capable of a better response
However, his issue was that my opinion that Simpson Miller's response in 2011 to the 'gays in Cabinet' debate was "without forethought," and an attempt to demean her. Unlike most others who praise or belittle, I am one of the few public intellectuals who has had basis to make any kind of evaluation of her intelligence and mental abilities. Not only was I one of her senior directors, but I was one of three UWI academics who gave her copious assistance and guidance during her academic pursuits. Thus, my position is that with more thought, she was capable of a better response, and I am surprised that Brown could proudly admit that he "was there during the preparation and at the debate".
Her statement was that she "does not support the position taken by the former prime minister (Golding)". Thus, implicitly, she would, not maybe, appoint gays in her Cabinet if she knew that they were. As I have said above, she has no legal discretion in obeying any law. And like Holness today, she should've gone ahead with the implicit promise to the gay community and changed the statute, if so brave. Her disclaimer later about not prying should have been the limit of her statement. If the first comment was based on forethought, clearly, her advisers fell down on the job.
My intention was never to denigrate or demean Simpson Miller. Indeed, having now reconsidered, it now appears that the knee jerk is by Brown, who has his fist clenched so tightly that he seems not to have a hand on the point and is so bent on backing the Rt Honourable former Comrade leader that he fails to see the compliment rather than an insult.
Nonetheless, such is the nature of tribalism and we must stop searching for the worst where it doesn't exist.
- Dr Orville Taylor is head of the Department of 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 email@example.com.