In a passionate discourse this afternoon in the Senate Minister of Labour Senator Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo dismissed suggestions that referring to the Domestic Violence Protection Orders Amendment Act and the Sexual Offence Amendment Bill as being gender neutral was a way of “opening the door to same sex marriage” in Barbados.
Furthermore, a tough-talking Byer-Suckoo made it clear that Government would in no way bend to pressure from any international organization or governments that wanted to lend support but required Barbados to change its laws in relation to same-sex unions.
And acknowledging that her statements “may bring more pressure to bear from the same external and international community that I have been speaking of”, Byer-Suckoo said she had been “sitting silently for too long” and “waiting to exhale” and she thought it necessary to share her opinion now.
The Minister of Labour said while she harboured “no ill feeling to persons of that ilk”, as long as she was a policymaker, “I know where I will stand”.
The former St George Member of Parliament said she had been hearing concerns from a number of people asking, ‘What are we doing? Are we opening the door for same-sex?’
But Byer-Suckoo said legislation was always gender neutral, including the soon to come Sexual Harassment Act and the Employment Rights Act because they dealt with both sexes.
“It is not a roundabout attempt to open the doorway to that same-sex discussion,” she insisted.
Making reference to a recent media story about a same-sex couple, Byer-Suckoo said she was aware that “the LGBT agenda is very strong”, adding that it was in the music, TV shows and magazines.
However, making it clear she was not homophobic, Byer-Suckoo told her fellow Senators it was a discussion that they should expect to intensify, adding that it was “in our face everywhere we look” and “we cannot hide from that debate much longer”.
“Some day it may actually come to this chamber. But we as a country it is important we start to think about it because we have to determine what we want to see in Barbados and we have to start thinking about it now,” she insisted, while making reference to a recent speech by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to Barbadians to think about what they wanted to reclaim, retain or discard of as the island moved forward.
In relation to receiving international assistance, Byer-Suckoo singled out the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as an example, saying there were some church groups that were concerned that “because we need aid, because we need assistance, because we need financing we may sign on to this”.
“But this is Barbados and we did not make foreigners 50 years ago tell us that we could not govern ourselves . . . and now we are a sovereign state and we are craftsmen of our fate. In the 1990’s we did not let the IMF tell us that we had to devalue our dollar to get out of a situation we were in. We found our own solution and we took a tough stance,” she said
“I don’t think that we have to legalize an issue because the rest of the world is doing it . . . or 20 [influential] nations are doing it,” she said, adding that if as a nation Barbados did not have “a philosophy, ethos and a guiding principle we will be tossed around by every old north wind of change”.
And stressing that she did not hate “certain individuals”, at the same time Byer-Suckoo said as a Christian society “we have to abstain from stigma, discrimination, hatred and violence and expressions of hatred”.
However, she said, “I want to reassure those persons . . . who have been asking me ‘what does this [the two pieces of legislation] mean for the same-sex agenda?’ It doesn’t mean anything for the same-sex agenda. It doesn’t mean anything for same-sex marriage. We are not going there with this legislation”.