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Archbishop: Buggery should not be criminalised
The Archbishop of Port-of-Spain Jason Gordon says the Roman Catholic Church does not support homosexuality but “does not believe that buggery should be criminalised at this time.”
On Thursday, the local lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) community won a “victory” when in a landmark ruling Justice Devindra Rampersad deemed this country’s sodomy law unconstitutional.
The ruling followed a two-year legal battle brought by Trinidad-born gay activist Jason Jones who said he had sought justice in the court because he felt that the laws as they stood took away his basic human rights and dignity.
The High Court ruling is being appealed by the State and activists acknowledge it may be some time before the controversial legislation is removed from the law books.
But Gordon said the position of the church that buggery should not be criminalised “is not a flippant teaching of the church,” but one that came “after a lot of reflection.”
He said the teaching was officially pronounced in the United Nations by Archbishop Bernadito Auza, who is the Vatican’s representative to the UN.
“The church made a very clear statement that buggery should not be criminalised and that any country that has buggery as a criminal offence, that the church should find ways to remove it from the statute books,” he said.
Gordon said the church remains against homosexuality which it views as a moral issue and not a criminal one. Speaking during a television interview on Thursday night, he said, “there is no question in the church’s mind or teaching that this is an act that is immoral, disordered, one would even say a sin against nature.”
“Buggery or the homosexual act,” he said “is a disordered act, is a frustrated act, it is an act, that is not in keeping with the intention of God for human sexuality.”
Gordon said the Roman Catholic Church was saying that “homosexuality is immoral,” but that did not mean that “it should be illegal.”
But the head of TT Cause Pastor Victor Gill, the group which has been leading protests against the LGBTQI community, says while he believes that gay people “have their rights, you can’t force homosexuality in Trinidad and Tobago, it can cause serious problems.”
There was some tension after the court ruled in favour of the LGBTQI community on Thursday with verbal assaults on members of the community.
Gill said things could have been worse. But he said they had been able to “temper what could have been the outcome yesterday (Thursday) and so to me this was a victory because it forestalled what could have happened.”
He said personally he was not advocating any violence, “but let’s be real from what I have been hearing, from what the Muslims are saying and from times in the past when justice is not served you can’t force homosexuality in Trinidad and Tobago, it will create serious problems. I have a church in Laventille and people are saying what they will and will not do and so forth, it will lend to serious problems.”
Gill said the country “cannot live in denial we have to wake up and smell the coffee this is not going to work.” He said consideration had to be given to the socio-dynamic of Trinidad and Tobago which, he said, is different to the first world. So that while “gay people have their rights, they should not trample on the rights of others,” he said.
Jones for his part is calling for a sense of “calm on all sides and that we learn to love ourselves as brothers and sisters.”
He recalled after Thursday’s court matter “people were verbally abusive and shouting some awful things at myself and other members of the community.”
Jones said there has been a “longstanding belief that homosexuality is wrong,” and while he “understands people’s fears,” he is of the view that things cannot remain the same, “modern progress has to be encompassed for all human beings,” he said.
Jones is hoping that “religious leaders will look at their text and start speaking from a place of love rather than a place of hate.” He said he has asked members of the LGBTQI community not to respond.
Jones said the ruling in the High Court was a sign of “what a great democracy we have.”
He said Trinidad and Tobago had to recognise that “we are part of a global community and LGBT rights are happening all over the world and we just have to take our place side by side with the global community.”
Jones said the international media had reported on the win in the local courts by the LGBT community, “it sent a message that we are a modern, progressive country and that is something to be incredibly proud of,” Jones said.
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