We all have rights, says Stand Up for Jamaica. Who are you to tell us otherwise?

Is there something that we humans don’t understand about “human rights for all?”

I wonder sometimes. Here is commentary from Stand Up for Jamaica, which makes perfect sense to me. J-FLAG, which used to represent the LGBTQ community, apparently had nothing to say on the matter.

I also had concerns about the recent public opinion poll by Don Anderson (but it made a great headline), as did Dr. Damien King of the University of the West Indies, who pointed out in a couple of tweets: “The opinion of a majority is irrelevant on questions of human rights. This question should not have been the been the subject of a poll and should not have been published. Who cares, for example, if the majority in a country think it’s okay to enslave an ethnic minority?”

We all have rights

The move from regarding homosexuality as a sin – the opinion of those upholding the Bible’s Leviticus and a few other biblical texts as permanent law – to treating it as a crime is a giant leap. It is one that non-supporters of Leviticus and proponents of other interpretations of other texts find hard to take. 

Are the acts of gays and lesbians truly criminal? Are those to do them actually criminals? Do they really deserve the harsh imprisonment punishment in the current buggery law? A crime after all is a deed that seriously hurts one or more people. Who is hurt in the consensual activities of gays and lesbians? Is the hurt the corruption of society? Proof of some leap out of the bedroom to that wider world and effect would have to be offered.

Fundamentalists guided by the book of Leviticus need to show the rest of us the criminality as defined to be found in such activity. Likewise, and even more, obliged are politicians who fail to give the leadership their position requires. 

The Don Anderson poll finding of 80 percent against removing the buggery law is not true to the reality we all know. Like several of his other findings, although broadly accurate, it is an exaggeration. Hostility in Jamaica to homosexuality has been steadily declining and the poll could have been framed (e.g. by comparing the numbers over several years) in such a way as to reflect this. So, regrettably – and unintentionally, we are sure – it caters to media that love the sensational.  

Religious and political leaders must give serious thought to the different obligations of moral law and criminal law and the penalties due to their breaches. This is especially the case where the moral law, as in this instance, is disputed by a significant segment of the population. More than just verbal and nominal respect is their due, their right. And not merely because the effectiveness of legislation becomes dubious when the extent of support from a populace is limited.

The population segment (not in the 80 percent) to which we refer comprises both church and secular members. The secular part could be considered when the data on religious affiliation in this country are considered. From a recent survey of some church leaders, independently conducted, a significant number of the Anglican Communion, along with a scattering in other denominations, firmly oppose the continuation of the buggery law. 

Lawmakers have an obligation to give genuine and concrete respect to the rights of minority church people, as well as minority homosexuals.  A decision by a majority does not, therefore, justify, just because it has majority backing, ignoring, or overriding the rights of minorities. A balance must be struck by legislators.

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