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Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere

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Tue Apr 8, 2013

Editor: The Prime Minister of St. Vincent and Grenadines (SVG), Ralph Gonsalves, is coming to Chicago, Illinois and will be the keynote speaker on April 19th, 2014 at the forum for “Revitalizing the Reparations Movement,” held at Chicago State University.{{more}}

The Prime Minister is seeking support for reparations to make amends for the injury done by the protracted, institutionalized oppression of slavery, which was legal and economically viable for the colonial oppressors. I find this ironic and incongruent, when paralleled with the Prime Minister’s lack of interest in addressing the long history of oppression of his lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens living under the umbrella of the criminalization of homosexuality in SVG.
 
All oppression is connected, sourced from bigotry, and when it rains it pours, exacerbating people’s lives. Seeking to redress a historical inequality that was abolished 180 years ago, while your nation state’s laws are currently oppressing its own citizens is dichotomous. The social exclusion of LGBTs creates disadvantages which results in greater economic deprivation for many. What reparations are being provided for Vincentians who are being marginalized by law, societal bondage and discrimination with the criminalization of homosexuality in SVG? History is prologue.

I welcome the Prime Minister, a fellow Vincentian, to my hometown, Chicago, Illinois, the land of President Abraham Lincoln. Illinois was the first state 53 years ago, in 1961, to eliminate its sodomy laws. Illinois has also recognized hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual, or heterosexual persons since 2001 and has protected LGBT persons from discrimination since 2006. Illinois has provided benefits to same-sex partners of state employees in that year as well (2006) and recognized same sex civil unions in 2011. Same sex marriage was legalized in Illinois via statute in 2013.
 
Chicago has preceded the state of Illinois in many areas of equality consciousness. The Human Rights Campaign gave Chicago the maximum score of 100, in the 2013 Municipal Equality Index Scorecard, for its commitment to the equality of LGBT citizens with regard to non-discrimination laws, municipal services, relationship recognition, law enforcement, municipality as an employer and its relationship with the LGBT community.

In SVG, not everyone is equal and some are more equal than others. I hope that while the Prime Minister is on stage making his keynote address, he reflects on where he is standing and the amends that he and his administration can choose to make to legally grant and protect equality for all citizens.

Coretta Scott King, in 1998, speaking four days before the 30th anniversary of her husband’s assassination said “I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice.” She said “But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Sean Macleish

Director

Caribbean Alliance

for Equality

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