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This is how Barbados is trying to silence LGBTI people

This is how Barbados is trying to silence LGBTI people

Christian baker Jack Phillips in his Colorado shop.

The US Supreme Court case about the same-sex Colorado couple suing a Christian baker for refusing to bake their wedding cake has arrived in Barbados.

‘Who the hell do they think they are?’

It came in the form of a statement from Ann-Marie Burke, a well-known news reporter for the state-run Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation.

On Thursday (7 December), she shared a CNN news link on Facebook about the case.

Ms Burke opined that: ‘This is my view which I base on a simple principle called CHOICE.

‘It was their choice to engage in a same-sex relationship and subsequently take the option to be married. The baker’s choice was not to bake a cake for them to celebrate the occasion.

‘It is the choice of many whether based on moralistic, religious or social reasons to not accept the LGBT community… in the same way that many don’t accept the KKK, the Jews, the blacks, the whites, the Hispanics, the Jehovah Witnesses, the Seventh Day Adventists, the Anglicans. and I can go on and on!

‘But what irks me with the LGBT community is that they are so up in your damn face with their agenda. Automatically if you don’t accept, condone or agree it is immediate discrimination.

‘What the LGBT community is doing is trying to force on others their beliefs, thoughts and choices. Who the hell do they think they are? I do hope the baker in turn sues them for defamation of character for as a businessman he has a right to refuse who he does business with or not.

‘I am quite sick of that community bearing down on the rights of others. You live your life the way you see fit and I will mine.

‘PS I have no personal issue with members of the LGBT community – many are my friends. But don’t force on me your lifestyle!’

The Colorado lawsuit is not about cake

I am a member of the Barbados LGBT community and one of the organizers of the recently concluded Barbados Pride.

So I took great exception to such a post by a high-profile person in Barbadian society.

What really got my blood boiling was how Ms Burke drew parallels with white supremacy, anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia: ‘The same way that many don’t accept the KKK, the Jews, the blacks, the whites, the Hispanics’.

But there’s a wider point here.

During Pride, we highlighted how the LGBT community faces constant discrimination. We are often denied services and simple personal liberties. The Colorado baker refusing to serve a same-sex couple would be no surprise here.

Ms Burke clearly missed the point that the Colorado lawsuit is about more than just a cake. The case is about making sure that nobody in any society suffers discrimination.

If a business opens its doors to the public, then the business owners have made a commitment to serve all members of the public. And that is irrespective of their race, colour, creed, sex, gender identity or expression or their sexual orientation.

I see no reason why any right-thinking businessperson would turn down income. That’s like me being a taxi driver and refusing to drive a family to church because I’m an atheist. What objective would I be seeking to accomplish by turning away business? Clearly my only motive must be discrimination.

Acceptance means welcoming the LGBT community into mainstream society so they can enjoy their lives just like cisgender and heterosexual people.

To ‘choose not to accept’ us means flat-out that one wishes to keep us on the fringes of society. It means we are marginalised and treated as less worthy of dignity, respect and less deserving of the happiness.

Gay sex gets a tougher prison term than bestiality

When we held Barbados Pride in November, I spoke about how our government mistreats LGBTIs. It is clear Barbados doesn’t take the idea of protecting us seriously.

Clearly Ms Burke believes this government indifference towards LGBTI citizens is appropriate. This flies in the face of Barbados’ international obligations.

Our country is a signatory to multiple conventions and resolutions intended to protect all citizens. However our government representatives at the Organisation of American States continue to dodge their responsibilities.

They make excuses as to why they can’t ‘join the consensus’ with other countries signing onto further resolutions to specifically protect the LGBT community and combat issues such as hate crimes.

They often allude to the Sexual Offences Act in Barbados, whose Section 9 criminalises what it refers to as ‘buggery’.

In fact, when the legislation first came in 1992, Section 9 sought to modify and amend the antiquated Offences Against the Person Act of 1865.

Section 62 of the old act criminalised ‘the abominable crime of buggery, whether committed with animal or mankind’. And it imposed the option (at the judge’s discretion) of either two of three years in prison with or without hard labour, or life in penal servitude.

The current Sexual Offences Act altered the sentencing to simply life imprisonment. Judges no longer have discretion in sentencing.

What is more, it distinguished sex with an animal from buggery. Bestiality is now distinctly referred to in the legislation and carries a 10-year prison sentence.

Apparently gay anal sex is something so much worse than sex with an animal that it has a stiffer penalty.

What Burke’s gay ‘friends’ really face in Barbados

The LGBTI community in Barbados faces social stigma and discrimination every single day, myself included.

And that’s why any citizen who respects others will find Ann-Marie Burke’s comments inflammatory. She showed she is committed to a mindset that we have no right to insist that on fair treatment. She enjoys rights and privileges which she would deny us as LGBTI people.

In fact, her postscript mentioning that she has ‘no personal issue with members of the LGBT community’ and that ‘many are [her] friends’ is quite galling.

If she really had LGBTI friends, she would have a clear idea of what they have to put up with everyday compared to her experiences. Perhaps some of these ‘friends’ will disassociate themselves from her after reading her statement.

After all, Ms Burke clearly wants to maintain the status quo. And like so many people in that position, she can best maintain the barrier which separates LGBTI people from mainstream society by silencing us.