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That long overdue conversation about homosexuality

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The decision by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOUS) that same-sex couples in that country now have the right to marry in any state of that nation has triggered discussions around the world, including here in St Vincent and the Grenadines about gay marriage in particular and issues relating to homosexuality in general.{{more}}

The ruling issued by the SCOUS last Friday will put an end to same-sex marriage bans in the 14 states that still maintain them. The decision by the court was a close 5-4, with the dissenters accusing their colleagues of usurping power that belongs to the states and to voters and short-circuiting a national debate about same-sex marriage.

Here in St Vincent and the Grenadines, where homosexual activity is still listed on our books as a criminal offence, the decision by the SCOUS has been described by most who dare to voice their opinion as against God’s word and an aberration.

Among those speaking out against the decision were the presenters of the religious television programme ‘Encounter,’ which was broadcast last night on SVG TV. Not only did the three senior pastors of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the West Indies (PAWI) reject the idea of same-sex marriages, but presiding bishop Sonny Williams has called on this country’s political parties to say, in this period leading up to general elections, where they stand on gay marriages and how they intend to “stand up” against foreign governments in these matters.

It is safe to say that Bishop Williams and his colleagues on the television programme — Pastors George Frederick and Noel Clarke — speak for a large number of Vincentians, this being a predominantly Christian country and the PAWI being the largest Christian denomination, according to the 2012 housing and population census.

The call by Bishop Williams was specific to gay marriage, but just three months ago, when Opposition senator Vynnette Frederick said she is of the view that the international community will force the Caribbean to confront the issue of our attitude towards persons who are homosexual, she was tarred, drawn and quartered by many, even by members of her own party, who said that no such conversation was needed.

St Vincent and the Grenadines needs to have a discussion on our attitudes to homosexuals and homosexuality, not just a statement by political parties as to their position on gay marriages. We need to have this discussion, because no matter how much we deny, duck or dodge the topic, the fact is there are Vincentian citizens living among us who happen to be homosexual and who will not disappear because the Bible teaches that their lifestyles are an abomination.

The concern here is that very often, while our religious leaders preach condemnation of homosexual acts, another biblical teaching, that of hating the sin, but not the sinner, is sidelined. The result is that the message received by many in this and other West Indian societies is that persons perceived to be homosexuals must be shunned, ridiculed and made a laughing stock of.

When such an attitude of derision is taken by responsible members of society or when those who know better turn a blind eye, citizens on the fringe are emboldened to act in cruel and violent ways to rid the society of what they perceive to be a blight.

That is why the conversation we need to have in this country should go beyond the position of political parties on gay marriage. We also need to discuss whether homosexual activity between two consenting adults in the privacy of their homes should remain a criminal activity, or if such acts should be something that those involved should answer to God about, not the State. Having an open conversation about homosexuality and our attitudes to homosexuals in the St Vincent and the Grenadines context cannot and should not pose a threat to the morals of this Christian society.

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