Fri | Nov 22, 2019

MoBay Pride lacked permits for pro-gay forum, court told - Appeal panel to rule today

Published:Friday | October 18, 2019 | 12:27 AMNickoy Wilson/Gleaner Writer

The St James Municipal Corporation is now claiming that it did not withdraw permission from gay- rights group Montego Bay Pride from having a forum on same-sex marriage at the western city’s cultural centre.

Attorney-at-law Georgia Gibson-Henlin, who is representing Montego Bay Mayor Homer Davis, and the corporation, further stated that no decision could have been made in this regard as the permits required to host the event had not been sought.

She made these assertions yesterday while making submissions via video link in the downtown Kingston-based Court of Appeal, which is now considering whether to reverse Tuesday’s interim order by the Supreme Court that allowed the gay-rights group to rent the public facilities at the Montego Bay Cultural Centre.

In September, The Gleaner reported that during a meeting of the municipal corporation, Davis stated that he would be revoking permission for the group to use the facility, stating that the move was necessary to preserve the “sacredness” of the space.

UPHOLDING THE CONSTITUTION

At the same meeting, councillor for the Montego Bay Northeast Division, Charles Sinclair, said that allowing such an event would breach the municipal corporation’s mandate to uphold Jamaica’s Constitution, which recognises marriage between a man and a woman.

Gibson-Henlin told the court that this did not constitute a decision by the corporation because it was governed by a council, of which Davis was only the chairman.

She said that MoBay Pride, led by Maurice Tomlinson, applied for the amusement licences for the first time on October 15, following the interim order.

Further, the attorney said that the licences take three to four weeks to be approved and urged the court to reverse the interim order on the basis that the gay-rights group would not get approval in time for the dates set.

She said Tuesday’s interim order made by Supreme Court judge, Justice David Batts, requires that the corporation ignore its amusement regulations.

However, attorney-at-law Nastassia Robinson, who is representing Montego Bay Pride, argued that requiring licences from the corporation was not ordinary, citing that the LGBT-rights group has had events there in the past.

She also hit back at claims that the event would breach the Constitution, arguing that the group was exercising its right to freedom of expression and conscience by hosting the forum.

In her submissions, Robinson said that the Montego Bay Arts Council, which oversees the property, had already given permission to the LGBT rights group to host its events and argued that this could not be overruled by the municipal authorities.

But Justice Patrick Brooks, one of three presiding judges, asked for evidence that this permission had been withdrawn by the corporation.

Referring to Tomlinson’s affidavit, she said that her client had been informed by a member of the arts council that after discussions with the mayor, the event could no longer be held at the cultural centre, forcing the gay-rights group to seek legal redress.

The Court of Appeal panel, comprising Justices Brooks, Nicole Simmons, and Paulette Williams, will deliver its ruling this morning.

nickoy.wilson@gleanerjm.com