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EDITORIAL - Lessons from the Silver Sands wedding

Published:Tuesday | June 5, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Jamaica, even if only a little bit, is a better place today than a fortnight ago. One of its citizens rediscovered Jamaica and her love for it. A slew of people affirmed the primacy of love.

The rest of us, should we think about it, would acknowledge that there is no contagion in sexuality and, perhaps, wonder why we persist with anti-gay attitudes that typify Jamaica.

And having admitted that gays offer no threat to the society, we must move to end discrimination against them, including the repeal of legislation that casts the State as a voyeur in people's bedrooms.

These, we believe, are some of the pertinent observations to be made from the 'marriage' re-enactment at Silver Sands, Trelawny, last month, between a lesbian couple, one of whom, Nicole Dennis, is Jamaican.

Ms Dennis and her partner, Dr Emma Benn, were already legally married in New York where, unlike Jamaica, same-sex marriage is legal. As Ms Dennis reported, she wanted to share the experience with relatives and friends in Jamaica, hence the re-enactment here that had all the ceremony, but without the legal recognition, of a traditional wedding.

burden of being gay

One of the significant features of this story is that Nicole Dennis might have been totally lost to Jamaica, intellectually and emotionally. Like many, she went abroad to study. She was motivated to stay away because of a stifling environment, homophobia included.

Ms Dennis' rediscovery of Jamaica was helped by her partner's wish to visit the island and, having come two years ago, "something felt different".

Whatever the personal and emotional bonds that Ms Dennis may have established, or re-established, with Jamaica, we dare argue that it might have been contributed to by the broader atmospherics of being gay in the island.

For, as this newspaper has noted before, though there has been no recent public survey of attitudes towards homosexuality, we have discerned a softening towards gays, and more so towards lesbians.

The movement has, admittedly, been slow, but would have been contributed to more recently by the brave stance of Prime Minister (PM) Portia Simpson Miller in last December's election campaign when she declared that a person's sexual orientation was not the State's business and would not be a determining factor in choosing her Cabinet. Mrs Simpson Miller promised a conscience vote by parliamentarians on the repeal of the buggery law that makes sex between males illegal. The buggery law also impinges on the rights of so-inclined heterosexuals.

touchstone of democracy

A critical test of a democracy is how it treats its minorities or persons of contrary persuasions, who offer no fundamental threat to the community. Jamaica, with regard to gays, has not been particularly good at this.

Mrs Simpson Miller can help to accelerate our improvement by joining other progressive leaders, such as Malawi's Joyce Banda, by going beyond her proposal of a conscience vote and declaring support for the removal of the buggery law. She should speak openly about the broadly corrosive effects of homophobia.

In other words, the PM can help in a rational discourse on a difficult subject, which might, ultimately, question old certainties, including the definition of marriage. Civilised discourse encourages the assertion of humanity, such as was the case among those who witnessed Ms Dennis' marriage re-enactment at Silver Sands.