The Barbados Government “will not change the law” to allow for same-sex marriages, an adamant Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite has declared.
However, Brathwaite warned the island had no room for discrimination on the basis of sexuality.
“As a lawmaker, if Jane decides she wants to live with Janice, that is their business as far I am concerned. But I will not change the law to allow them to be married in Barbados. I will not stop them from being able to access health care, being able to have a job, or to be able to eat and sleep and do all the things I do,” Government’s top legal adviser said last Friday at the official launch of Man Talk, a monthly discussion series organized by the Men’s Fellowship of the Cave Hill Wesleyan Holiness Church.
The more than two-hour discussion, which at times drew heated responses from the panel and the audience, was centred on the topic, Same Sex Relations – A Right Or An Abomination?
Brathwaite stressed that Barbados still held to the norm that marriage must be between a man and a woman.
However, he said same-sex relationships were fast becoming a human rights issue and Barbados would soon have to decide where it stood in light of the positions already taken by several international bodies.
“We are going to have decide as a country if this is so fundamental to our way of life as a country that we are willing to uphold it and deal with the consequences thereof,” he said.
President of Barbados Gays, Lesbian and All-Sexuals Against Discrimination (BGLAD) Donnya Piggott was adamant that the local gay community was not interested in pressuring authorities to legalize same-sex marriages.
She stressed the sole interest of members of the community was the freedom to exercise their right to live free of harassment and discrimination.
“It’s nothing to do with marriage; marriage is not on our radar . . . . It is not an issue that the LGBT community is trying to grapple with. It is nothing that we have ever said that we wanted . . .
“We want [laws against] discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity put on the law books of Barbados so that if one person is discriminated against whether it is in the workplace; whether it is in a formal setting, that we have a legal recourse to combat the discrimination that we face. Marriage is not on the radar,” she stressed.
Piggott’s comments drew a strong response from Ambrose Carter, director of the Pure Sex Centre, who accused the gay community of using discrimination as a cloak to take forward its agenda.
“When you get these one-off incidents where a gay may have been beaten or something, people want to blow these things out of proportion for their own gain and it is not right to us as a country. Individuals [gays] have lived here even though there are no laws sanctioning it [homosexuality] on the law books. All of us know of gays living as man and woman, or man and man or woman and woman living safe for eons.”
He underscored that Barbados must tread carefully on what it allowed, and raised concern about “new” sex education programmes in schools that distort the image of the family.
Brathwaite is not the first member of the Freundel Stuart Cabinet to come out against the idea of same sex marriages here.
Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth Stephen Lashley was emphatic in his opposition to it when he spoke on the subject in May 2015.
Lashley said at the time that while he was “not condemning gay people”, Barbadians had “gone soft” on this and other issues of morality.
“I think we have gone soft on a lot of issues. I am one who has come out publicly and have said that I don’t embrace gay marriages. I have said that and I remain fully of that particular persuasion,” Lashley said then.
“Our morality is under question because we are not firm on who we are . . . . Apparently we are not supposed to talk about it and if we have somebody who says, ‘we are not going to tolerate gay marriages’, apparently you are not being as liberal as you should.
“Well, sorry, I have taken a different approach and I am prepared to say what I don’t tolerate and I am not going to act in breach of any law and I do not think that our law should be changed to accommodate immoral behaviour,” Lashley insisted at the time.