Debating the Rights Bill
July 10, 2003
A CONTROVERSY appears to be brewing over the Bill of Rights dealing with sexual orientation.
That won’t be unique to Guyana. Societies around the world are divided over the emphasis governments and parliaments should place on giving equal rights to gays in areas such as marriage, rearing children and in certain places of employment.
In some developed countries, gays protest vigorously against discrimination by their “straight” compatriots, pointing out that as human beings, they deserve equal treatment by society in every facet of life.
Because Guyanese are a relatively conservative people, the debate here is likely to be influenced by the position adopted by the country’s religious community.
After what they themselves consider a prayerful, “long and serious reflection” on the issue, the country’s major religious leaders unanimously concluded last month that “sexual orientation” should not be included as a fundamental right in the Constitutional Amendment Bill to be reviewed once more in Parliament.
In a statement at the conclusion of their meeting the leaders, banded in what is known as the Inter-Religious Organization, said that while they abhor discrimination, hostility, hatred, intolerance or uncharitable-ness against any persons because of their sexual orientation, they are “equally united and unanimous based on the teachings and sacred writings of all our traditions that it is God’s will, in His creation of humanity, that sexual intercourse, an image of God’s power of creation, should be practiced within the context of marriage between members of the opposite sex.”
“While firmly opposed to any forms of discrimination, abuse or hostility towards persons of homosexual orientation, the religious community in Guyana cannot in faithfulness to the Word and will of God give moral or other support to rights to same-sex marriages or adoptions by same-sex couples.”
In order to facilitate further discussions on the Constitutional (Amendment) (No 5) Bill that Parliament initially approved on January 4, 2001, President Bharrat Jagdeo agreed to the religious community scrutinizing its clauses, hoping that stakeholders will reach consensus.
The Bill is due to return to Parliament this week.
Hopefully, the debaters will consider the consequences of their decisions and vote on the society at large and that, as a consequence, they will travel a path that benefit all Guyanese, particularly generations down the road.