LGBTI people in Palau are excited but cautious about their president’s recent admission that he backs same-sex marriage.
President Tommy Remengesau Jr told local media on Wednesday (24 July) that he thought the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was discriminatory.
‘Those who are different doesn’t mean that they should be outcast, second class citizens, or that they can’t contribute to the community. So I want to make it clear that I don’t believe in the constitutional amendment that promote discrimination,’ Remengesau said.
‘I want it to be on record that I support the rights of each individual, any Palauan, to be treated equally… Let us treat each other with respect and dignity.’
His comments are bold given Palauns voted in 2008 for an amendment to the constitution to outlaw same-sex marriage.
Located in the Micronesian region of the western Pacific Ocean, Palau is a very religious – mainly Christian – archipelago of islands. It has a population of a little more than 21,000 people. In 2014, the government overturned the ban on gay sex.
There’s a catch
Activist and podcaster, Sha Merirei Ongelungel told Gay Star News while she applauded his admission, but felt it lacked inclusivity.
‘I read a transcript of the President’s statement in Palauan and, while it is definitely a huge step in terms of advocating for LGBTQIA+ rights in the Republic of Palau, I am disappointed that he ended his statement with religious overtones,’ she said.
Those religious sentiments included him saying: ‘as long as they believe in God like everyone else, we can treat each other with respect and dignity’.
Ongelungel said she respected his beliefs but personally supported the separation of church and state.
‘I applaud this very surprising, very progressive act on his part, but including God in his statement means that his statement is not inclusive,’ she said.