Wed | Nov 13, 2019

Gay battle - Pride shames church protesters - Mayor obtains stay against ruling granting interim access

Published:Thursday | October 17, 2019 | 12:15 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer
Church members demonstrating against MoBay Pride at the Montego Bay Cultural Centre, St James, yesterday.

WESTERN BUREAU:

A gay-rights group will head to court today to challenge a ruling by the Court of Appeal granting a stay to the interim order allowing them to host a controversial debate on same-sex marriage at the Montego Bay Cultural Centre in St James.

The latest twist emerges after Montego Bay Mayor Homer Davis’ attorney filed an appeal yesterday.

Amid withering criticism by civil and church organisations, Montego Bay Pride leader Maurice Tomlinson has accused the St James municipal authorities of using the issue as a “political football”.

Tomlinson, founder and development coordinator of the gay group, has been embroiled in a court dispute with the city’s mayor over the right to host the forum in the civic centre, a public building.

Tomlinson, who is gay and married, criticised a demonstration by churchgoers, arguing that Christians had failed to protect children from sexual predators in their congregation.

The civic building, located in the heart of the St James capital, has been ground zero in a legal tug-of-war for over several weeks.

On Monday, the Supreme Court in Kingston made an interim order allowing the gay-rights campaigners to rent the civic centre.

Yesterday evening, churchgoers who journeyed from Kingston to Montego Bay, mounted a small protest in front of the cultural centre, bearing placards denouncing anal sex and gay marriage.

The Christian group refused to name their congregation.

The Jamaican Constitution defines marriage as a union of one man and one woman. Anal sex, regardless of gender, is also illegal.

“I think it is a very unfortunate thing that these persons have decided to have this conversation outside the purpose of the event. Today was supposed to be a public forum for them to address the question, ‘Is Jamaica ready for same-sex marriage?’ We were not going to have any same-sex weddings,” Tomlinson told The Gleaner yesterday.

POLITICAL FOOTBALL

Montego Bay Pride said that the group had consulted with the police and that a robust security plan had been put in place to protect gay attendees at the cultural centre.

“The reality is, Jamaica is not insulated. This [the LGBT movement] is something that is happening around the world,” Tomlinson told The Gleaner. “I suspect that the LGBT community is being used as a political football to win votes, and that’s unfortunate. Some persons, for political gain, are using us to whip up votes with the churches.”

albert.ferguson@gleanerjm.com