Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves. (iWN file photo)

The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has assigned Karen Duncan-Gonsalves, a senior litigation person in the Attorney General’s Chamber to respond to the legal challenge to the nation’s buggery law, which comes up before the court on Wednesday (today).

Counsel Jomo Thomas, whose chamber filed the legal challenge, told iWitness News on Tuesday that Wednesday’s hearing would be for case management as the court is not returning from its annual vacation.

Responding to questions at a press conference in Kingstown on Tuesday, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Legal Affairs, noted that the nation’s buggery and indecency laws date back to its colonial past.

Gonsalves, who is also a lawyer, further pointed out that the once a law is passed, it is presumed to be constitutional until it is overturned.

“So I suspect that the attorney general will seek to help the court with all of those technical, legal issues. It is not a combative thing…” he said.

Gonsalves said he has not given any instruction to the attorney general Jaundy Martin “to fight to the death A, B, or C points”.

“That’s not my role. The court has to be helped for the court, in its own judgement, to come to a conclusion,” he said.

In July, Javin Johnson, 22, successfully claimed asylum in the United Kingdom in 2017 and Sean Macleish, 53, a Vincentian resident in Chicago, Illinois, filed court proceedings to challenge SVG’s “buggery” and “gross indecency” laws, which criminalise homosexuality. 

The challenges were filed by Kingstown-based lawyers, Zita Barnwell and Jomo Thomas, listing English barristers Jeremy Johnson QC and Peter Laverack of 5 Essex Court, London, as the intended trial advocates.

Johnson and Macleish assert that these laws strip their dignity and autonomy.

They have filed claims with affidavits stating that they have been exiled from SVG due to the severely draconian and damaging effects of these laws.

The claimants, Sean Macleish, left, and Javin Johbson.

Gonsalves said that in the face of the legal challenge, some persons have suggested that his government amend the laws to decriminalise same-sex activity among consenting adults in private.

He said others have suggested that the government leave the law as is and allow the court to pronounce on them.

The prime minister further said he is unsure what all the dimensions of the matter are that the claimants would address.

“But, like everybody else, I would await the judgement of the court,” he said, even as he noted that the courts have ruled unconstitutional similar laws in Belize and Trinidad and Tobago, which also faced the same legal challenge.

The prime minster said he has read the judgement from Belize and a summary of the judgment from Trinidad, having been told that the one from Belize was more comprehensive.

Gonsalves said that as he understands the matter, the nub of the case is that same-sex activity in private is in breach of one’s right to privacy, at least.

He said he is aware that there is a freedom of expression argument, adding, “I never thought that that was a freedom of expression issue, but I am always open to learning… I usually think of freedom of expression in a different way.”

The prime minister said he would be very interested to find out how the attorney general’s chambers will deal with the matter to help the judge

He said that on these matters the attorney general would not take a position of defending it to the end, but would say that he has heard the issues and wants to help the court to deal with the matter.

Asked how much of a good chance he thinks his government stands of winning the case, the noted prime minister said that the attorney general is joined in the case because the law requires that if a criminal statute is being challenge on the basis that it is unconstitutional, the attorney general is the office that has to be joined.

In July, Leader of the Opposition Godwin Friday noted the right of persons to challenge the laws that criminalise buggery in SVG.

 “It’s not unexpected because this is something that has been done in other parts of the Caribbean as well,” said Friday, who is also a lawyer.

“The matter is in the court so I am not going to get too much into it. Just to say that the application that has been made to the court, that is the right of anyone to apply to the court if they feel their rights have been violated and the process will work its way through.”

Friday, also commented on the general issues of same-sex relations, saying, “it is a very contentious matter publicly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the Caribbean.

“And what has happened in societies all over the world is that these laws and these practices, attitudes change over time and each society has to move along at its own pace,” the opposition leader said.

15 replies on “Gov’t resists legal challenge to SVG’s gay laws”

  1. Yes, SVG is certainly “behind the times” in many instances. Doing something in public is one thing but what people do in private as consenting adults is another. Whenever a case like this comes to trial it is an opportunity to craft more sustainable policy that will insure people’s freedom but at the same time not turn our nation into a sodom and Gomorrah. In such cases people should themselves be responsible for thier own actions based on thier emotions but held within boundaries that also protect the norms of society as a whole.
    We do not see heterosexuals performing acts in public so why should we craft a law for gays to do so. For SVG to allow gay night clubs and such is NOT a wise idea. Russia has not outlawed homosexuality as the gays and US Government say, Russia has made it illegal to PROMOTE homosexuality. We should consider that when our present colonial laws are addressed. In Israel homosexuality is heavily promoted for Christians and non-jews but there are punishments for Jews to do such acts in public. In Israel they are also against Jews having such relations outside of Judaism. Christians and those of other religions are seen as unclean animals or just beasts of burden with the only purpose as serving God.s chosen.
    It certainly is worth looking at the finer points of what other nations are doing in this legal matter. If gays want to be gays in private, let them. It is also stupid to think it can be stopped. Obama was heavily promoting homosexuality and they seem to be doing this in schools in the USA as well. When I look at the USA, I have to think that Russia has better laws in this area than most countries.

    1. EXCELLENT POINTS …….agree ,,,,

      side note ….who are the REAL Jews and where do the people that presently live in Israel originally come from ??

  2. lord help my good country. I stand with the Law of God. Laws made by man will never supersede the LAW of GOD. The Court can rule as much as it want and allow these sick minded people to have things their way. God create man and he gave under him a woman as his companion.

  3. The very sad fact about our small nation is that we were once as a people followers of the Christian religious doctrines, even though during that time, not all in our nation were convinced of those ancient doctrines.

    However during those days, our country was then known to be inhabited by majority Christian people. A people who took the Bible as the revealed words of the Living God. Today sadly however, we as a people are gradually being deceived by a new world view. Being encouraged to abandon the old ways. Yet there is nothing new or novel in this behaviour of ours! See Romans 1: V. 18-32 (NKJV).

    The terrible danger of being deceived as outlined!
    https://www.mljtrust.org/sermons-online/1-corinthians-6-9-11/the-unrighteous-shall-not-inherit/

    What back then, were our doctrines as was set out, before we as a mass, decided that we had now come of age and no longer needed Christian guidance or as decided through our perceived cleverness, to do our own thing? It was the doctrine of the reformation! We abandon them at our peril!
    http://www.ntslibrary.com/PDF%20Books/Calvin%20Institutes%20of%20Christian%20Religion.pdf

    For analysis of the same, see Systematic Theology, by Louis Berkhof

    https://www.biblicaltraining.org/library/systematic-theology-louis-berkhof

    1. True Edge Samuel! From the above comments people see gays as anti-Christian. I do not know. In my view th Old Testament is a book for Judaism. Orthodox Christians rejected the Old Testament for over a hundred years because of all the “anti -Christ” teachings in it, not to mention all the hatred and evil in the Old Testament, (along with the wisdom and the goodness). Orthodox Christians accept the Old Testament selectively now although they reject such books as the Book of Esther because all those teaching are the opposite of what Jesus taught. Things such as vengeance, killing children, etc… Jesus stood for tolerance. He was the most tolerant life form that ever lived! Jesus was not Jewish. When the Old Testament was translated into other languages “Jew” had various names. Jesus called them the “Pharisees”. He said “Beware of the teachings of the Pharisees, meaning Esther and other Jews. He did not mean beware of his teachings, he was obviously not a Jew. There is much more about this and I hope James H. can tell up more. What was Jesus view of gays? I am sure he would say they should have all rights the rest of us have but should they be allowed to marry? I doubt it. They are not to be punished either. Does anyone think Jesus would do that? Where should the line be drawn?

  4. Edge Samuel we live in a democracy, government by the people for the people. It’s not for the minority to rule the majority.

  5. Here is a thing JIMMY! How do you explain the following statements in the Bible if the man Jesus was not a Jew?

    John 18:31-33 New King James Version (NKJV)
    Then Pilate said to them, “You take Him and judge Him according to your law.”
    Therefore the Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death,” that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled which He spoke, signifying by what death He would die.
    Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”

    And

    John 19:20-24 New King James Version (NKJV)
    Then many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.
    Therefore the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘He said, “I am the King of the Jews.” ’ ”
    Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

    1. Thank you James. I knew you were going to use that part of the Old Testament to make your point!

      In that passage did they mean King of the people of Judea, which were not all jews? The word “Jew” did not exist for any other reason at that time. There was NO Jewish religion, in the since of the English word. The religion was Pharasee. Did Jesus mean he was th the King of the Jews (from Judea) and indeed ALL MANKIND? Why was it even brought into question at that time if it were obvious that Jesus was a Jew?…Apparently it was NOT obvious? the original New Testament was NOT written in English. What was the Greek word used in that passage?
      This is an instant where the phrase “LOST IN TRANSLATION” really applies.

      The truth is that Jesus was a Christian, in fact THE FIRST CHRISTIAN and therefore NOT a Jew! NO CHRISTIAN ON EARTH CAN ARGUE THAT FACT! The Jews hated him because he was not teaching thier doctrines, instead he was teaching Christianity.

      Proclaiming Jesus was a Jew (the religion) holds ZERO truth! God believes in free choice, Jesus NEVER chose to be a Jew (the religion) whether he lived in Judea or elsewhere.

      1. lol so much misinformation you speak sir !!!!…. where did the word Christianity come from ????
        Judaism is the original and true word to describe the faithful followers of Gods word . that word Christianity was created by the evil and deceitful Roman Empire that joined church and state to deceive the faithful and corrupt. them with pagan laws .
        THE REAL PEOPLE OF JUDEA AND HEBREW CAN NEVER BE WHITE . ..THE WORD ..JEWS DERIVE FROM HEBREW WHO ARE THE ORIGINAL FOLLOWERS OF JUDAISM THE CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM IN ANCIENT ISRAEL ……..THEIR SKIN COLOR CAN NEVER NEVER BE WHITE . LOL

        FOOL AH TALK BUT FOOL NAH LISTEN

  6. Well JIMMY, no disrespect but you do show great ignorance and poor learning in these matters. May one ask which place of learning did you attend? For your information JIMMY, The term pharisee was reserved for a particular group of specialist who were like Lawyers in the Jews Laws. Further JIMMY the term Christians was a term of derision given to the followers of Jesus. “The Christ ones”!

    Dear JIMMY “No source, other than the Bible itself, provides more relevant information on the first century than the work of Flavius Josephus. Note The Works of Flavius Josephus – Ultimate Bible Reference Library”. SEE:
    http://www.ultimatebiblereferencelibrary.com/Complete_Works_of_Josephus.pdf

    AND

    The Modern Library edition of Church and Brodribb’s text, published under the title of The Complete Works of Tacitus.

    Roman History (14 – 70 A.D.) by Publius Cornelius Tacitus
    https://xet.es/ROMANS/Roman%20History%20Tacitus.pdf

    The above may help you in your research JIMMY, if you are really serious in understanding these matters, and not engage yourself in spreading foolishness.

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