While Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were pledging their support for LGBT rights at the Commonwealth Youth Forum in London last week, a Commonwealth territory was grappling with the after-effects of a high court ruling declaring its laws on homosexuality “unconstitutional”.
Earlier this month Justice Devindra Rampersad called Sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act 1986 of Trinidad and Tobago “unconstitutional, illegal, null, void, invalid and of no effect to the extent that these laws criminalise any acts constituting consensual sexual conduct between adults”.
The Catholic Church has supported de-criminalising homosexual acts, while continuing to view them as immoral. “Buggery is a serious moral offence, but it should not put someone in prison for 25 years,” said Archbishop Charles Jason Gordon of Port of Spain in a statement after the judge’s ruling. This is the penalty incurred by someone “who commits the offence of buggery” under Section 13, part of the body of laws inherited from Trinidad and Tobago’s British colonial past.
Citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Archbishop Gordon explained: “The homosexual act is intrinsically disordered because it is closed to life. Yet homosexuals should be protected and we should ensure they are not subjected to discrimination or violence.”
The Church in the country has long been committed to social justice. Catholic parishes and organisations routinely offer food, medicines, counselling and other services to anyone in need, regardless of ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation.
Urging the faithful to “think with the Church”, Archbishop Gordon noted that at the United Nations in 2008 the Holy See declared that it “continues to advocate that every sign of unjust discrimination towards homosexual persons should be avoided and urges states to do away with criminal penalties against them”.
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