ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Stakeholders on island have weighed in on the prospect of same sex marriage on the twin-island, in light of President of the United States of America, Barack Obama’s recent endorsement on Wednesday.
“This is a progressive move because it does sends signals that the homosexual population are indeed citizens like everywhere else in the world,” Senior Programme Officer at the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Alliance Svenn Grant said.
“From a civil rights or human rights perspective it is fundamental that any individual in any population should be free to marry and have the same union and have it recognised,” he added.
Grant is an HIV/AIDS advocate whose work primarily focuses on the homosexual population on island, which he considers to be a sexual minority.
The HIV/AID advocate believes that it is once again time to address social laws in Antigua & Barbuda and the greater Caribbean which he regards as one of the last vestiges of the civil rights battle.
“We are in the heart of Christianity now and discriminating against our own is incredibly sad,” Grant noted, referencing the history and struggle for equal rights for persons of African descent.
He added, “It is even worse that we need to follow someone else rather than Antigua being a leader in their own right … I don’t understand why we are so concerned about what is happening in people’s bedrooms.”
Grant said “marriage” means different things to different people. However, marriage he said is not only a religious concept, but a legal contract between consenting adults.
“In some ways it’s like sharing an estate. Why should the state get involved in stopping people from doing that? I think it is a waste of valuable time that we have when we consider this a major issue,” he stated.
Attorney and President of the Antigua & Barbuda Bar Association, Arthur Thomas agrees that marriage is a legal contract, however, he said, the wishes of society often dictate legislation.
“At the end of the day, somebody has to take those changes to Parliament and that is where it starts and really ends. An elected representative would need to go to Parliament and say that they are proposing a Bill which would make same sex marriage legal and I don’t know if we are mature enough at this point to deal with those types of arguments,” Thomas said.
However, Thomas noted that before a conversation can be had about same sex marriage, buggery laws would have to be addressed.
“To have that discourse in parliament I don’t think that any politician would go to parliament and present a Bill that would in effect remove buggery from the books without having the confidence that the community in general is in support. I think the Christian community have been vocal in relation to this issue and I can not see in the short term them relenting on it,” he added.
Although the attorney did not wish to express a personal view on the morality of the issue, he did note that same-sex marriage for Antigua & Barbuda would be a hard won feat.
“Based on our history, our culture and the strong religious base that we profess as a nation, it is very unlikely that we in the near future will begin to entertain the concept of same sex marriage,” Thomas said.
Thomas believes there is a political agenda attached to Obama’s endorsement.
The American president has been a popular figure on the Antiguan & Barbudan landscape marked by the renaming of Boggy Peak to Mount Obama in 2009 in celebration of the history election of the first African-American president.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)