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EDITORIAL - Mr Golding's waffle on buggery

Published:Sunday | June 1, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Bruce Golding may have evolved a bit since he famously rejected the possibility of gays serving "in my Cabinet". But the former prime minister appears to have a problem making up his mind, exemplified in his on-the-one-hand-but-on-the-other-and-perhaps-the-third style of disputation in a recent contribution in this newspaper on the Brendan Bain controversy and gay rights in Jamaica.

Mr Golding wrote: "I am not opposed to the repeal of the buggery provisions in our laws because I don't think that legislation can, or should, try to regulate sexual practices, except in certain circumstances, such as in the protection of children. The State has no business barging into any bedroom to molest homosexuals any more than it would fornicators or adulterers."

That is precisely the position of increasingly large swathes of Jamaicans, including this newspaper, who call for the removal of these anachronistic provisions, which primarily target male homosexuals, assault the dignity of a significant proportion of our population, and cast the Jamaican State as some kind of voyeuristic sexual commissar.

Except that there is no certitude on Mr Golding's part in arriving at a principled position on a discreet issue of the right to privacy, freedom of association, and the preservation of human dignity. So, he searches for entanglements, which he finds in the argument that acceding on a principle, which he accepts is right, might lead to "the battle cry ... to secure same-sex unions and eventually same-sex marriages. And that, Mr Golding believes, would be morally reprehensible, eroding traditional values.

Willing to uphold a wrong

In other words, Mr Golding is willing to uphold a wrong for fear that doing what is right might unleash uncontainable social forces. That, we remind, was the kind of thinking that added to longevity of many moral ills, including slavery and apartheid. But in the contrivance of logic in support of his supposed fear of potentially cascading moral dominoes, the ex-PM may have forgotten the uphill path they would have to take.

For instance, Mr Golding was the leader of government when, after nearly two decades of deliberation, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of Freedoms was passed, amending the Jamaican Constitution. That charter, at Section 18, restricts the recognition of marriage, "or any other relationship of which any rights or obligations similar to those pertaining to marriage are conferred upon persons as they were husband and wife", to being between "one man and one woman".

His wavering notwithstanding, Mr Golding, by his recognition of the banality of the buggery provisions, added an important, if unintended, voice to the absurdity of the maintenance. Maybe at another go, Mr Golding will arrive at a position closer to that of another former Jamaican leader, P.J. Patterson - a serious debate on gay rights in Jamaica, in the absence of hardened positions among the protagonists, "taking into account the prevailing global environment within which we live".

We would wish Mr Patterson to engage the current prime minister and his successor as leader of the People's National Party as she prepares for her promised conscience vote in Parliament on the buggery provisions. Mrs Simpson Miller cares naught for the sexual preferences of the people with whom she works, a position that, hopefully, informs a conversation ahead of the vote.

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