Thu | Sep 23, 2021

Can you stop the bolting horse, Mr Boyne?

Published:Saturday | August 2, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Shirley Richards, Guest Columnist

Ian Boyne, in his article of July 27, 2014 ('War over the buggery law'), stated as follows: "Shirley is not right that 'repeal of the (buggery) law will also effectively remove the philosophy that protects true marriage'.

As a lawyer, she should know of those states that have decriminalised homosexuality and yet have constitutional provisions protecting man-woman marriage."

The following is the full statement made by me from which Mr Boyne chose to quote in part only: "Repeal of the law will also effectively remove the philosophy that protects true marriage, making the institution of marriage, although thankfully currently protected, much more susceptible to challenge." (Sunday Gleaner, July 13, 2014).

Now I ask, why didn't Mr Boyne publish my full statement? I stand by my statement. A good source of information regarding the link between decriminalisation and same-sex marriage can be found in Justice Scalia's judgement given in the 2013 case of United States v Windsor.

Yes, there are some countries that have decriminalised buggery which do not have same-sex marriage. Good for them, but that doesn't change the point that removal of a buggery law makes true marriage, whether constitutionally protected or not, much more susceptible to challenge.

Apart from that, some of these countries decriminalised buggery at a time when the idea of same-sex marriage seemed almost impossible, certainly highly unlikely. This is now a different time. Who takes down shutters when a hurricane is approaching?

Mr Boyne has also said: "But we could still repeal the buggery law and not have homosexuality taught as normal in our schools and public institutions." This could possibly work in a country like Russia, but for other countries which have decriminalised, it may be just a matter of time.

Additionally, we need to be aware of what happened in England on this issue. Having decriminalised buggery in 1967, concern was expressed about the promotion of homosexuality within public schools. Parents expressed concern at what their young children were being taught. Thus in 1988, Section 28 of the Local Government Act was passed to prevent the promotion of homosexuality or the "acceptance of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship" in these schools. However, surprise, surprise! That law came under intense pressure from homosexual groups, leading to its repeal in 2003. So much for protecting children!

Mr Boyne has also stated: "A law must be inherently just", with the clear implication that the buggery law is unjust. The buggery law is quite just. It uplifts human personality (as it recognises that desires can be controlled), it squares with moral rules, and it serves the common good. It is also consistent with our anatomical design.

All persons are indeed equal before the law, but is that the same as saying that all behaviours are equivalent in worth? Are outcomes of a behaviour of any consequence? The buggery law is valuable, as it creates a distance between right and wrong, unnatural and natural sexual behaviours. Take away that law and all legal distinctions between sexual behaviours are gone.

Mr Boyne has stated: "Make no mistake: The legalisation of homosexuality threatens civil liberties and the rights of those of us who oppose homosexuality on religious grounds. It takes away our options of exercising personal conscience once homosexuality is normalised in law and if same-sex marriage is legalised. That has been the practice and experience so far."

In view of the strong LGBTI advocacy locally and elsewhere, what assurance would Mr Boyne be able to give us that decriminalisation of buggery will not lead to "legalisation of homosexuality", along with the threat to civil liberties which he is concerned about? Somehow, Neville Chamberlain's empty assurance of "peace in our time" comes to mind.

Shirley Richards is an attorney-at-law and advocate of different-sex marriage. Email feedback to and

COMING SUNDAY: Read Ian Boyne's 'Do gays threaten free speech?' and Tripp Johnson's 'The elephant is in the room - Pt I'.