By Carlena Knight
Despite the push by international countries such as the United States and even several local groups over the matter of legalising gay marriages, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda has refused to budge from its stance that it will not pass any laws to accommodate same sex marriages.
Also, in the face of international organisations, including the United Nations, which have issued resolutions in support of LGBT rights, Attorney General Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin cemented points made in Parliament this week by Prime Minister Gaston Browne and Minister of Health Molwyn Joseph in opposing the matter.
“There is talk also of getting certain personal matters dealt with about same sex marriage. The PM mentioned it but I am speaking for me. I know we can entertain them and have discussions but we are going to get the feel of the public on that, but as your AG, I’ll have to entertain discussions.
“There are many groups who approached the Attorney General and have asked me to consider bringing legislation about this same sex business, but they have to take us to court about this one. We are not going down that road and all this other matter about liberalisation of some gentlemen doing funny things with another gentlemen, not me. I have to tell the people how it is; it’s the truth,” Benjamin said Tuesday in Parliament.
To date, 28 countries have legalised same sex marriages after the Netherlands became the first country to make gay marriages legal in 2001.
In the Caribbean, however, only five countries have passed laws in favour of gay marriages. Those countries include Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Saba, Bonaire and St Eustatius.
However, 11 countries — Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, The Czech Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Slovenia and Switzerland — do not recognise married same-sex couples but rather term them as having a civil union or partnership.
On 25th July 2019, the Supreme Administrative Court in Bulgaria ruled the country must recognise a same-sex couple’s overseas marriage. Furthermore, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has issued a ruling that is expected to facilitate recognition in several countries in the Americas.
In Antigua and Barbuda, the offence of “buggery” is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
The act is illegal in nine Caribbean countries, including Barbados, where it carries a punishment of 10 years in prison.
It is also illegal in Dominica where, in 2012, two American men were arrested for having sex on the balcony of a cruise ship docked in Roseau. They were initially charged with buggery but plea-bargained the offence down to indecent exposure.
While Jamaica advertises that it is “welcoming to all”, intercourse between homosexuals is considered an offence punishable by up to 10 years in prison, which can include hard labour.
Meantime, in 2018, Trinidad and Tobago decriminalised consensual gay sex, which was previously punishable with by to 25 years in prison.