By Dr Lawrence A. Joseph
Same sex marriage refers to the legalization of a sexual union between individuals of the same sex: a man gets married to a man and a woman gets married to a woman. Whilst it may be safely said that this type of relationship is widely abhorred throughout the Caribbean, in most African countries, in Asia, in the Middle East and the Far East, this institution has been widely legalized and continues to obtain widespread support in many countries of the Americas, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
The phenomenon of homosexuality goes back historically for thousands of years, but the first recognized same sex marriage seems to be that of Nero, a Roman Emperor who ruled from 54 AD to 68 AD. It is reported that he publicly married three men on different occasions during his reign. Although in the 1970s there was a significant growth in gay rights activism, marriage was not a priority among homosexuals. The thrust for legal recognition only came about in the mid 1980s when there was a more consolidated effort being made for this purpose. It was only after the turn of this present 21st century, gay activism seriously pressed for and obtained widespread support for their relationships to be legally recognized in the form of marriage.
The question of giving legal recognition to the institution of same sex marriage involves a diversity of social, political, human rights, civil rights, and religious issues. Ongoing debates on its veracity take place in many countries throughout the world and stir up lots of emotionalism. Many reasons have been advanced for granting legal recognition for gays. It is argued that same sex couples pay their taxes just as opposite sex married couples and are therefore entitled to same state benefits; that they have a right regarding legal protections such as inheritance benefits and hospital visitation rights; and claim that their financial, psychological and physical well-being would become more enhanced by marriage.
As a consequence of this drive for legal recognition, in 2001 the Netherlands became the first nation in the world to legalize same sex marriage. Since then same sex marriages have been legalized by many other nations including Belgium (2003), Spain and Canada (2005), South Africa (2006), Norway and Sweden (2009) and more recently New Zealand (2013) and the United Kingdom (2014). Following a constitutional referendum in May of this year, 2015, 62% of voters in Ireland approved an amendment to the constitution which would legally permit same sex marriage in that country before the end of 2015.
Amazingly quite a number of faith-based communities around the world actually perform same sex marriage rites. These include Buddhism in Australia, Church of Sweden, Church of Denmark, United Pentecostal Church of France, United Pentecostal Church in Belgium, Pentecostal Church in the Netherlands, United States Episcopalians, Anglican Church of Canada, the United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.
Notwithstanding all of this, some countries, such as most countries of Africa, the Middle East and Far Eastern Regions have established a “no tolerance” attitude towards the practice of homosexuality and same sex marriage. Some impose imprisonment for life and others the death penalty on persons found guilty of those state offences. In Grenada, in accordance with section 431 of the Criminal Code persons found guilty of what is referred to as “unnatural connection” would be liable to be imprisoned for ten years. The question of authorizing same sex marriage is not even being considered.
Sooner rather than later however, Grenada and other Caribbean countries would have to take a position one way or the other with regards to how they stand on the matter. There are two aspects to the dilemma: one deals with whether to legalize the institution of same sex marriage and the other is whether to recognize same sex married couples who come into the country. Various international institutions keep pushing for their endorsements. Our countries would either have to stand up for their own moral independence or buckle under the might of these secular bodies.
In this region, marriage is still considered to be a sacred institution between a man and a woman. It is generally felt that marriage was created historically for the purpose of procreating children and growing them up within a stable environment. Our original Christian values are still very much entrenched. Whilst some may offer some measure of tolerance to adult same sex individuals being emotionally entangled in their own privacy, it is not difficult to understand that the majority may well find that legalizing same sex marriage is taking it a bit too far.