Anglican campaigners for justice are rejoicing today alongside LGBT people in Trinidad and Tobago where the High Court ruled the criminalisation of homosexuality illegal.
Trinidad and Tobago Newsday reports that the Court ‘had been asked by Jason Jones – a Trinidad-born openly gay man – to determine whether the State had the constitutional authority to criminalise sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex.’ The Court ruled that his basic human rights were infringed and that the law could not stand.
Anglican Primates have been united in their call to end criminalisation in every nation and the Archbishop of the West Indies – the Most Revd John Holder – has been at the forefront of this campaign. His courageous stand is in marked contrast to many other religious leaders throughout the region. Evangelical leaders in Trinidad and Tobago opposed the ruling and have spoken in favour of retaining criminalisation.
The ruling was greeted with joy by campaigners, but will not be the end of the story. Already there are reports of intimidation of gay and lesbian people and with some experiencing violence at the hands of members of Jamaat al Muslimeen, a local and extreme self styled Islamic group with a history of violence.
As Anglicans for peace with justice we will pray that LGBT people will not only be free of threat from the law, but also accepted in society. Decriminalisation is a beginning, but the aim is for all to know that we ‘are loved by God’ regardless of sexuality and welcomed when baptised as full members of our church. We need to move from tolerance to acceptance, and from acceptance to celebrating diversity.
There are also reports that the Government will appeal the ruling. The laws relating to homosexuality in Trinidad and Tobago date back to the initial laws formed by the colonial power. The long term solution will be in the writing of new laws to protect freedom and combat discrimination. laws do not change a society, but they can create the environment where we can listen to one another without fear.
We hope and pray that Anglicans in Trinidad and Tobago will support the commitment of the Primates of the Anglican Communion and of their Archbishop to decriminalisation.
For now we praise God for this step.