The popular Barbadian distaste for the notion of same-sex marriage is frequently made manifest in various homilies, by occasional letters to the editor of our newspapers and through sundry views expressed on the blogs and other social media. The absurdity of the entire matter is that, to our best knowledge, no individual or group has, to date, proposed the passage of legislation creating this institution.
It may be that some people perceive this as the inevitable and logical next step should the group that is now seeking to have our criminalization of the acts of buggery and gross indecency in the Sexual Offences Act, Cap 154 declared incompatible with the American Convention on Human Rights succeed in their efforts, but these two are, in our opinion, poles apart.
The legal initiative with respect to the Convention entails consideration of the extent to which our current law accords with the provisions of that instrument, to which we as a sovereign state have been signatory since 1981 and have therefore committed accordingly to respect the rights and freedoms recognised therein and to ensure to all persons (human beings) subject to our jurisdiction the free and full exercise of those rights and freedoms, without any discrimination for reasons of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, economic status, birth, or any other social condition.
Included among these rights and freedoms are the right to privacy, the right to equal protection of the law and the right to judicial protection. It is the content of these rights that we imagine will form the major part of the subject matter of the legal argument before the Commission eventually.
Those who now preach against the institution of same-sex marriage here should be advised that there exist some rather substantial hurdles to cross before that event ever becomes an actuality. We will first have to confront the common law adumbrated in Corbett v Corbett (1970), unarguably applicable in Barbados that marriage means essentially “a union between a man and a woman defined according to their sex and not their gender”. Also that, so far as the law is concerned, the biological sexual constitution is fixed at birth at the latest and cannot be changed thereafter.
And while we have not gone as far as Jamaica has done in expressly legislating in its 2011 Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms that “No form of marriage or other relationship… other than the voluntary union of one man and one woman may be contracted or legally recognised in Jamaica…” the legalisation of such unions here will still require a positive legislative act on the part of our Parliament.
We are fully aware that idea of same-sex marriage is anathema to most Barbadians and we do not imagine that any responsible administration would so compromise its civic goodwill by enacting such legislation in the absence of the widest public consultation.
Equally, we understand too the need to be vigilant in preserving those aspects of our culture that merit preservation, but the current campaign against same sex marriage appears to us to be little more than the equivalent of shouting “Fire” in a crowded theatre… when there is none.