The long-awaited position paper on homosexuality from the Jamaica Council of Churches (JCC) has come out strongly against same-sex unions declaring that, “God’s perfect design as expressed in scripture is for sexual intimacy to take place between one man and one woman within the context of the sanctity of marriage.”
The JCC’s stand isn’t surprising or unexpected as the church in Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean has been consistent in opposing same-sex unions and homosexuality. As more countries, including the U.S., have accepted and legalized same-sex marriage, this has been met with controversy in the Caribbean. No Caribbean country has legalized same-sex unions and the general opposition to homosexuality has resulted in the region being criticized for being homophobic.
The widespread acceptance of same-sex unions in North America has emboldened gay-rights advocates in Caribbean countries like Jamaica. Currently, there’s a case before the Jamaican Supreme Court brought by a gay activist against the nation’s attorney general. The activist wants the court to determine if the nation’s anti-sodomy law (or buggery law) breaches rights guaranteed under the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms. He claims this guarantees the right to sexual activity between adults in privacy.
Anticipating the ruling of the Supreme Court, various Jamaican religious leaders have been extremely vocal in their opposition to homosexuality. However, the proponents for same-sex marriages have argued that opposition to these unions mean denying the human rights of those involved.
In April, the House of Bishops and Standing Committee of the (Anglican) Church in the Province of the West Indies also defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The church argued that human sexuality issues were being promoted as human rights issues that must be accepted globally, but regional governments must resist any attempt to compromise cultural and religious principles.
On the other hand, in August, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. Denzil Douglas, who is responsible for health matters in CARICOM, spoke in support of the human rights of gays. Dr. Douglas, in referring to gays and lesbians, said, “I believe that they do have a right.” He said the stigmatization and discrimination against homosexuals are matters of human rights that needed to be discussed openly.
In Jamaica’s 2011 general election campaign, People’s National Party leader and current Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller, supported the repeal of the nation’s anti-homosexual laws. However, since taking office she hasn’t made any attempt to repeal the law now under consideration by the Supreme Court.
While declaring that marriage should be only between a man and a woman, the JCC also urged compassion for homosexuals. The organization said while homosexuality might be a conscious choice by some, those inside and outside the church should recognize that for homosexuals, there is an unwelcome struggle between the “flesh and the spirit.” They say “This struggle that homosexuals have with their faith creates chronic guilt and depression, disappointment and unanswered questions within many families.”
Furthermore, the JCC stated that the fear of ridicule and isolation some homosexuals face causes them to suffer in silence. Accordingly, the JCC appealed to church members, clergy and laity, to make church a welcoming and non-judgmental place, sensitive to those dealing with issues of brokenness in their lives, including homosexuality.