A stinging rebuke has come for Minister of the Environment Dr Denis Lowe from one of his own Cabinet colleagues.
Outspoken Government minister Donville Inniss Tuesday sought to deal frontally with the whole question of morality and need for greater societal tolerance, as he joined with critics in outrightly rejecting Lowe’s latest remarks on same-sex union.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY, Inniss also warned his ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) colleague to stop playing the homosexual card against the Mia Mottley-led Barbados Labour Party (BLP), since the Freundel Stuart-led ruling DLP was made up of gays and lesbians too.
It was while addressing a ceremony in honour of mothers within his Christ Church East constituency over the weekend that Lowe publicly denounced what he saw as advocacy to legally wed persons of the same gender.
“There is an attempt in certain quarters to advance a legislative call for same-sex marriage, and I do not have any intention, within or without the legislator to support any such notion because I still believe in the biblical way of life,” the minister of the environment said.
Also seemingly taking a swipe at Mottley, Lowe added, “I am not about to support any idea that the greatness of the nation is bound up in any individual who does not regard the importance of motherhood, of family, and of marriage according to the biblical standard.
“We want our boys and our girls to grow up in a society where they are not embarrassed because they live in a house where mum is a woman and dad is a man,” he added.
However, Inniss clearly distanced himself from those remarks telling Barbados TODAY, “My position is that we must not judge individuals according to their perceived or imagined sexual orientation”.
“We need to discuss these matters in a very rational manner and with an open mind,” he also suggested, adding, “I am not going to pursue any political opponent based on perceived sexual characteristics, because in my own party there have been gays and lesbians.”
As for the matter of same sex unions, Inniss, who is the Minister of International Business, Industry, Commerce and Small Business Development, argued that the matter was a “non-issue”, while suggesting that Lowe should instead focus on helping to address more pertinent issues affecting the country, including unemployment, the low foreign exchange reserves and rising health care costs.
“There are far more important issues in Barbados today to address – the economy and challenges with our young people – I am not focused on people’s preferences. And as politicians we must show a higher level of tolerance,” said Inniss in dismissing Lowe’s remarks.
“For me this is really a non-issue. I think those of us in public life should focus on more relevant matters . . . . I am far more concerned about our challenges in the economy and how we can get a better Barbados for all, not whether you are a heterosexual or homosexual,” he insisted.
However, Inniss made it clear he was “not necessarily” supporting same-sex marriages nor was he prepared to support any legislative reform to allow for such in Barbados.
Nonetheless, he pointed out that society was already “tolerant” of gays and lesbians and suggested it should remain that way.
“I don’t think this is even a matter that has to step into the realm of legislation. There is no need for any legislative reform. Barbados has always been a very tolerant society. The folks who drink rum excessively and get behind a steering wheel pose a greater danger to society than gays and lesbians. The folks who abuse marijuana or cocaine and hard drugs are bigger threats to society. When we don’t teach our young people to have respect for others including their property, that is a bigger threat to society,” said Inniss.
“It is not even an issue that one can say Government is divided on or it is Inniss versus Lowe,” he added.
Inniss also argued that while there was no harm in the country having a discussion on the matter, he believed any move to legalize same-sex unions in Barbados would be met with “great resistance” from the population.
“I don’t think any politician in their right frame of mind would even put that on the agenda. I don’t have that fear, but my fear is that the constant commentary that condemns those who are gay or lesbian does not add value to our national development because gays and lesbians were here when the economy was strong and robust and they are here now when we are having our challenges and they will be here long after the Democratic Labour Party has gotten the economy fully on track,” he said.
“I think marriage in a Christian setting is between a man and a woman but that does not conflict with a view that a man or woman has a right to choose their partner. It may not be blessed in the eyes of the Church, but it does not mean they don’t have a right to choose their partner, and we must be careful that we don’t foster a level of animosity and anger towards individuals who are gay or lesbian in a modern Barbados,” he warned.
Saying all he was “preaching” was tolerance and respect for all individuals, Inniss called on Lowe not to be so judgmental.
Speaking further on the point of tolerance, Inniss also took a swipe at the Barbados Gays & Lesbians Against Discrimination (BGLAD), suggesting that “rhetoric” about members of that community being discriminated against was fallacy.
“I do not believe Barbados is a homophobic society. That is why I do not agree with the gay and lesbian society and their rhetoric. I think they are just grandstanding and they do not have any evidence for the claims they make in this society. Quite frankly, I think they should just keep quiet and get on with their own business,” said Inniss.
“In my 30 years as an employee and employer in Barbados I have never seen discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation. I think a lot of it is over exaggerated,” said the father of two sons.