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Liberian Senate moves to criminalize same-sex marriage

Liberia is moving to make entering into a same-sex marriage an actual crime, but it remains to be seen whether President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf will sign the bill into law
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Uwe Kerkow

The Liberian Senate has unanimously supported a bill banning same-sex marriage which would make entering into one an actual crime.

However President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is yet to sign the bill into law.

The bill passed on Thursday amends Liberia's Domestic Relations Law to make entering into a same-sex marriage a second degree felony.

Under the law entering into a same-sex marriage would be a bailable offence, and those convicted would only have to spend a short amount of time in prison or pay a fine.

The bill was sponsored by Senator Jewel Howard-Taylor, the wife of convicted war criminal and former president, Charles Taylor.

Another bill which is currently before the Liberian House of Representatives seeks to make homosexuality a capital offence, but Senator Howard-Taylor told the Xinhua news agency that the intention of her bill was much different to that bill.

‘There are people who are homosexual that continue to do whatever they want to do,’ Senator Howard Taylor said.

‘My bill seeks to ensure the fact that people of the same sex under our law should not be allowed to get married.

'I am concerned that our country does not degenerate into seeing people of the same sex getting married, and to me that is critical.’

Liberian Senate Judiciary Chairman Senator Joseph Nagbe said that foreign LGBTs who visited the country would not be exempted from the law.

‘If you are gay or lesbian and you [are] having to come here we expect you to behave orderly,’ Senator Nagbe said.

‘That is, stay away from each other until your departure.’

The US State Department warned Liberia there could be consequences for further criminalizing homosexuality ahead of the vote.

‘I think if there were major pieces of legislation that discriminated against any group, we would have to take that into account in our relationship, and it would be a cause for concern,’ US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told AFP on Tuesday.

President Johnson-Sirleaf is on the record as opposing same-sex marriage but told the Guardian newspaper in March she opposed the toughening of penalties for sodomy in the country’s criminal code.

However she has recently come under fire from colleagues for not being anti-gay enough so it remains to be seen what action she will take on the bill.

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