T&T buggery law ruled unconstitutional

Members and supporters of the LGBT community outside the Parliament Building. (Trinidad Express)

(Trinidad Express) Cheers erupted and tears of joy were shed outside the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain yesterday as members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community learned of the court’s ruling in the landmark case brought by gay activist Jason Jones challenging this country’s buggery laws.

Jones brought the case challenging sections of T&T’s Sexual Offences Act which criminalises anal sex, as he said the laws were unconstitutional.

High Court judge Devindra Rampersad agreed.

Emerging from the court, Jones was met with loud applause from the scores of gay rights supporters who were gathered outside.

It was an emotional scene as many cried, shared embraces, sang the National Anthem and waved rainbow-coloured flags.

One woman was so overwhelmed she had to be physically supported as she stumbled and cried openly.

“It was a stunning victory for human rights and a victory for all citizens of Trinidad and Tobago,” said Jones.

“This is not just about LGBT, this is about the rights and freedoms enshrined in our Constitution.”

Jones, who had reportedly received death threats as a result of his challenge, said he hoped the ruling would not provoke any violence.

“I hope everybody will come away from this calmly and collectively looking at what the future should be for our nation. We have to start to pull together and today is a starting moment for us all to do that.

“In Trinidad and Tobago we are a multicultural melting pot of a nation and if we can have Hindus live next to Muslims, if we can have Christians live next to Hindus, there is no reason why I can’t share the nation also.”

Jones said the battle for equality has only just started as he expected the Attorney General to appeal the judge’s decision, which will see the case go before the Privy Council. He said the world is looking on and he intends to continue fighting until the LGBTQ community is given equal rights for marriage and adoption.

The world was indeed looking on as members of foreign and regional media was present to report on the historic ruling.

“I will not stop until I have full equality. I am not going to tolerate second class citizenship any more,” Jones stated.

Love is love 

Executive Director of the Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (CAISO), Colin Robinson, declared that “love won” yesterday.

“What the buggery laws have done is not prevent or punish sex but punish our ability to imagine that what happened today could have happened, that the law could provide us with justice, that the law could enforce our equality. I am really humbled that I live in a nation that could deliver that judgment.”

Robinson said it is now the responsibility of the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago to ensure that sexual orientation and gender identity are included in the Equal Opportunity Act.

Also present yesterday was Kevin “Saucy Pow” Darlington who expressed his happiness with the ruling.

Darlington said members of the LGBT community must be treated equally and not shunned from society.

LGBT supporter Consuelo Dookie said the ruling was a step in the right direction, adding that human rights must be protected across the board.

“This is a win for human rights. Love is love, she said.”

The ruling also gave hope to Jamaican attorney Maurice Tomlinson, who had brought a similar challenge in the Caribbean Court of Justice in 2016.

Tomlinson had argued that he had been prejudiced in the enjoyment of his right as a Caricom national to enter this country and Belize due to Immigration Acts, which purportedly include homosexuals as a class of persons prohibited from entry.

His challenge was however thrown out by the Caribbean Court of Justice  (CCJ) as it said the Acts were not enforced and Tomlinson had never actually been prevented from entering either country.

Reacting to the ruling yesterday, Tomlinson expressed renewed hope.

“They said Jason would not win. He did. They say I won’t. I say: ‘Watch me!’”

Obscenities and slurs

But while the LGBT community celebrated on the steps of the Hall of Justice, across the street a small religious group stood solemnly.

The group, led by Jamaat-al-Muslimeen leader Yasin Abu Bakr, was rendered speechless as moments earlier they had expressed confidence that the ruling would be in their favour.

Prior to the ruling, Bakr had said he felt sure that the Court would rule against homosexuality.

“You could do that (anal sex) in the privacy of your own home and we have no problem with that,” he said.

“But when it comes to legislating this issue, we have a problem with that and we will not accept it.”

The two groups maintained a distance from each other while awaiting the ruling but an altercation developed when members of the Muslimeen group confronted the LGBTQ supporters on the steps of the Hall of Justice.

Shouting obscenities and slurs, one member of the Muslimeen got in the face of an LGBTQ supporter and demanded that she leave Trinidad.

The man made threatening remarks, prompting the gay rights group to call for intervention from police positioned nearby.

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