More discussion needed on sexual orientation bill
- Bishop George

Stabroek News
July 24, 2003

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Anglican Bishop of Guyana Randolph George says that more discussion is needed on the provision which seeks to make non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation a fundamental right. The bill is scheduled to be debated in Parliament today.

Noting that the proposed amendment to the Fundamental Rights Bill has generated considerable interest, Bishop George contends that “until we can solve this matter legally without fear of generating further divisions, we should not rush to legislative changes.”

“I propose therefore that our law-makers give themselves and the society more time to consider and examine the matter.”

In a press release yesterday, the Bishop argued for postponement of the debate, saying that such a decision “will ensure that, regardless of the final outcome, the experience of a civilized debate itself will teach us a little more about how to resolve divisions in our midst and contribute to a more tolerant society.”

“Our society”, he declared, “cannot risk creating new fault-lines and divisions.”

According to Bishop George, debate on the issue, unfortunately, has been compressed into an unreasonably short period of time, “generating fears and reservations, some of them reasonable and some irrational.”

The issue has stirred deeply-held convictions, he observed, and warned that it has much potential for aggressive confrontation which this society can ill-afford. Several churches have opposed the bill on the grounds that it will lead to the legalisation of same-sex marriages and adoptions by such couples.

The religious community, Bishop George says, feels the need to ensure values and laws with respect to marriage and personal relations are not undermined. “At the same time we are conscious that other values, also promoted by the religious community, must be protected and taken into consideration, particularly the matter of discrimination.”

Outside of the religious community, yet other valid concerns need to be understood and taken into account, he further said.

Resolving difficult ethical issues, he posits, is normally a matter of reconciling values which appear to conflict, all of which are laudable. And “applying labels of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in such situations is neither constructive nor helpful.”

Bishop George also asserted that from a religious perspective, the debate around the issue of sexual orientation would only be helpful if the society emerges with a clearer understanding of the principles which should govern the way we relate to each other.

“To date this has not happened. Were the debate to be curtailed by a vote tomorrow (today), it would leave feelings of bitterness in some quarters and triumphalism in others,” he said.

Furthermore, he noted, it is his understanding that the issue has now been released from the time-bound pressure of the Communique signed between President Bharrat Jagdeo and Opposition Leader Robert Corbin by the creation of a new Bill. “More time is needed to educate our society on all the implications of the proposed change,” the Bishop advised.

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