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Five judges to hear gay rights activist's appeal next year

Published:Friday | December 19, 2014 | 10:00 AM

Barbara Gayle, Justice Coordinator

KINGSTON, Jamaica:

In what will be a rare occurrence, five members of Jamaica's Appeals Court will next year hear an appeal brought by gay rights activist and lawyer, Maurice Tomlinson against a Constitutional Court ruling.

Tomlinson is appealing a ruling that threw out his case against three television stations.

He wants the Appeals Court to set aside a ruling that Television Jamaica, CVM TV and the Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica (PBCJ) did not breach the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms when they refused to broadcast a video promoting tolerance for gays.

One of the lawyers representing the defendants applied this week at a case management conference for a five-member panel to hear the matter instead of the usual three judges.

The lawyer argued that he was applying for five members because it was the first time the Charter was being challenged.

The appeal has been set for five days, starting on July 20 next year.

Tomlinson complained that Television Jamaica, CVM TV and PBCJ breached the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms when they refused to air an advertisement promoting tolerance for homosexuals.

However, the Constitutional Court dismissed Tomlinson's claim in a ruling last year.

Tomlinson had suggested that the fact that the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica viewed the video and found no breach of any of its rules had to be taken into account.

However, the court said it could not overlook the fact that the Broadcasting Commission is a regulator and not the operator of any of the stations.

According to the judges, each of the defendants, TVJ, CVM and PBCJ, must have the right to determine what they broadcast, the time at which any broadcast is made and the manner in which it is done.

Tomlinson is contending in his appeal that the advertisement does not violate broadcasting laws or regulations and as such the television stations are unjustified in refusing to air it.

He is also contending that the judges erred in their ruling and is asking the court to overturn it.


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