Catholic Church supports sexual orientation as fundamental right
...but opposes same-sex marriages - Bishop Singh
Stabroek News
July 23, 2003

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Bishop Benedict Singh says that while the Roman Catholic Church does not countenance same-sex marriages, it opposes discrimination based on sexual orientation and therefore supports legislation to enshrine this as a fundamental right.

The Bishop of Georgetown noted in a press statement yesterday that many Catholics and others have been seeking the judgment of the Catholic Church in Guyana concerning non-discrimination on grounds of “sexual orientation” which is the subject of a Bill currently before Parliament.

And in the case of the proposed amendment, the release noted, it has been argued by the Guyana Human Rights Association that Article 149 (3) of the Guyana Constitution preserves the laws relating to marriage from the influence of Article 149 (2) in which the amendment is to be located.

“This is a legal issue which our legislators will have to concern themselves.

But certainly we do feel that it is within the capabilities of our legal drafters to arrive at a wording for an amendment which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation while at the same time ensuring that such a provision is not in conflict with our marriage laws,” the Roman Catholic Bishop said.

The proposed elevation to fundamental right status of sexual orientation as a ground upon which people cannot be discriminated against has sparked a heated and drawn out debate. Many churches have come out against the bill which is to be debated tomorrow in the National Assembly and for which the main parties are likely to permit a conscience vote.

In his statement, Bishop Singh also pointed out that the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church do not countenance same-sex marriages and such unions are considered to be not in keeping with the will of God as revealed in sacred scriptures.

“We do believe that God is the author of marriage in which a man and a woman ‘are no longer two but one’. We believe that the act of sexual intercourse is the highest expression of that unity. We hold that the intimate sexual act should only be exercised between a man and a woman. Further, we believe that all Christians are called to actively promote the values of marriage and the family among people of every race and religion and sexual orientation,” Bishop Singh explained.

He contended, however, that “discriminating against any person does not help our support for marriage and the family. It is not sufficient to merely refrain from active discrimination. We have to show others that we love and respect them as persons. The Church is therefore opposed to discrimination based on sexual orientation and supports legislation intended to enshrine this as a fundamental right.”

Most fundamental rights are not absolute, the Bishop observed. Most rights have restrictions based on concern for public order, safety, national security, respect for the rights of others, the rule of law and moral values. For example, the right to freedom of association is restricted in that such association cannot be deemed legitimate if used to instigate terror, he argued.

Singh also posited that a human right can only be acknowledged in terms of persons, so a clear distinction needs to be made between discrimination against a person by virtue of their sexual orientation and discrimination against sexual orientation.

“My understanding of the Bill passed in the National Assembly in January 2001 is that it dealt with discrimination against persons.

This bill was not assented to by President Bharrat Jagdeo after objections were raised to it. It is to be debated afresh in Parliament tomorrow with the sexual orientation provision contained in a separate bill.

Singh further declared that homosexuality is an affront in the eyes of God and the Church is opposed to this practice. “However, as Christians, we condemn the sin and not the sinner who is capable of repentance and redemption. Wherever we find beliefs or actions which we believe to be wrong, we should state our position with reason and above all with love.”

The release recalled that the Roman Catholic Church had expressed its opinion on the Bill in a Pastoral Letter in January 2001 when the issue was first raised.

According to the Bishop, Guyana is a diverse nation of many religions, races and groups thirsting for peace. And building a peaceful society requires a wholehearted commitment to eliminate all forms of discrimination.

“One of the objectives of a state ruled by law,” the Bishop asserted, “is that all its citizens may enjoy the dignity associated with protection from discrimination, no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief or political affiliation.”

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