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Jamaican opposition leader backs gay rights

Jamaican opposition leader backs gay rights

The Jamaican opposition leader has come out in favour of LGBT rights and reviewing the anti-gay buggery law during an election debate.

People’s National Party leader Portia Simpson-Miller made the positive comments during an election debate yesterday with Prime Minister Andrew Holness. Jamaicans will go to the polls on 29 December.

Simpson-Miller said no-one should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation and that she would have no problem appointing gays to her cabinet if they were able to do the job.

And she pledged to give politicians a free vote on removing the anti-gay buggery law from the statute books if elected Prime Minister. Her PNP party is currently in opposition and trailing in the polls.

But the current PM, Andrew Holness, took a different stance.

Responding to the same question, Holness accepted the need for Jamaica to achieve minimum standards governing human rights.

He has previously argued gay rights are civil rights, not human rights, and therefore not covered by international human rights instruments.

In the debate he said: ‘In the modern world there are minimum standards of human rights which we must meet and Jamaica has done so on all occasions.

‘However as a society we have to determine what our civil rights are which are slightly different.’

Holness went on to again imply that he would not support gay rights – at least the majority were in favour of them.

He said: ‘My sentiments reflect the sentiments of the country. The Prime Minister has a discretion but that discretion can not be exercised in a vacuum.’

By contrast Simpson-Miller of the People’s National Party directly supported LGBT equality in a move welcomed as ‘historic’ but gay rights activists in Jamaica.

She said: ‘No-one should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. I think we should have a look at the buggery law and members of parliament should be given the right to vote with their conscience, in consultation with their constituents.’

She then referred to the former Prime Minister Bruce Golding who told the BBC in 2008 that he would never appoint a gay person to his cabinet. In 2009 he promised parliament to stand firm on never legalizing gay sex.

Simpson-Miller added: ‘I do not support the position of the former Prime Minister.

‘I do not have any intention of prying into the private business of anyone. I would appoint anyone with the ability, the capacity and the capability in my cabinet.’

The PNP has selected a non-gender conforming candidate who has been the subject of a barely veiled homophobic campaign by the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

Jamaican LGBT rights group J-FLAG has written to the JLP complaining about this tactic.

The PNP has selected another candidate for the traditionally safe seat of the tourist resort city of Montego Bay who is rumored to be gay.

Watch the exchange on gay rights during the debate here: