Gov't gets support from Church to fight challenge to buggery laws

Gov't gets support from Church to fight challenge to buggery laws

Thursday, November 21, 2019

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KINGSTOWN, St Vincent (CMC) — High Court Judge Justice Esco Henry yesterday ruled to allow 10 churches, calling themselves the Christian Coalition, to join the Ralph Gonsalves Government in responding to the constitutional challenge to the buggery and gross indecency laws in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Justice Henry handed down the ruling one week after hearing arguments from the Christian Coalition and lawyers for the claimants, gay Vincentians Sean MacLeish and Javin Johnson.

Shirlan “Zita” Barnwell, one of the two lawyers representing the claimants, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that the judge agreed to allow the churches to join the lawsuit as an interested party.

He said they will be allowed to file written submissions and make oral arguments to the court.

However, in terms of evidence, the churches are restricted to filing two affidavits, Barnwell said.

Justice Henry is expected to issue her written ruling today.

Barnwell and Jomo Thomas are representing the claimants, who say the country's anti-buggery and gross indecency laws contravene their constitutional rights.

Under the Criminal Code, any person who commits buggery with any other person, commits buggery with an animal, or permits any person to commit buggery with him or her is guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for 10 years.

The Criminal Code also says that any person who, whether in public or private, commits any act of gross indecency with another person of the same sex, or procures or attempts to procure another person of the same sex to commit an act of gross indecency with him or her, is guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for five years.

The men are asking the court to declare the laws unconstitutional, void and of no effect.

Ten churches had asked to join the attorney general in responding to the challenge to these laws. They include the Seventh-day Adventist Church; Evangelical Church of the West Indies; New Testament Church of God; Spiritual Baptist Church; Church of God St Vincent; New Life Ministries; Light of Truth Church of God; Kingstown Baptist Church; Living Water Ministries International; and Hope Evangelism Outreach Ministries.

Last week Wednesday, hundreds of Vincentians took to the streets in support of the present legislation and urged the authorities not to amend the legislation to suit the claimants.

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