Jul 04, 2015 News
By Abena Rockcliffe
At the reception recently held at the Marriott Hotel Georgetown in observance of United States Independence Anniversary, on Thursday, the country invited Guyana to join it in the legalizing of gay marriages.
Chief of Mission, Bryan Hunt delivered remarks on behalf of his country. During his address, Hunt pointed out that this year marks the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. He noted that the landmark legislation prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life. It also promotes accessibility to jobs, schools, transportation and to all public and private places.
The envoy said that the United States remains hopeful that the Government of Guyana can join the commitment to ensure that all persons, disabled or not, have equal access and equal opportunity to live full and independent lives the way they choose.
He then moved on to the more controversial provision for people that are considered “different.”
Hunt said that on June 26, last, the United States took “another critical step” along the journey to equality when the Supreme Court issued its “much-anticipated decision confirming what many have long believed, that all couples, whether opposite or same-sex, are entitled to marry.”
He said that while there are those who continue to fight against the extension of this “basic human right — much as they did with the extension of similar rights to inter-racial couples in the 1960s –, I am proud that once again America has shown itself to be on the right side of history.”
Hunt said that with “this landmark decision, the United States is ready to take yet another journey down the path towards equality for all, following in the footsteps of many of our allies such as South Africa, Brazil, Canada and Ireland, who are already well ahead of us on this particular journey.”
He added, “It is my fervent hope that in the coming years other allies, such as Guyana, will decide to join with us in the fight for the human rights of all, including those of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities.”
Hunt told those who gathered at the event, that the strongest nations are those that value and celebrate diversity and the contributions of all of their citizens. “I strongly encourage all Guyanese to work together to meet the challenges of today and work to make a brighter future for this generation, and for generations to come.
“The United States is committed to continuing to work with you as a friend and partner in this struggle.”
Guyana remains equally divided on issues related to homosexuals. The country’s overall HIV infection rate is estimated at 1.2 percent, but about 19.4 percent of Guyanese men who have sex with men are infected, according to the United National AIDS Report of 2010.
Current laws prohibit cross-dressing; “acts of gross indecency with male person,” which carries a sentence of up to two years in prison; attempted “unnatural offences,” up to 10 years in prison; and buggery, up to a life sentence.
Most of these laws are not often enforced.
About a month ago, Granger was asked how he presumes his strong religious background will influence his judgment, when addressing calls for legislative measures to be put in place for the benefit of Lesbians, Gays, Bi-Sexual and Transgender (LGBT) persons.
Granger responded that he was keen to note that he has strong religious beliefs which will not be altered even as he heads a multi-religious nation; however, he has a policy not to impose his religious views on society.
The President said, “I have made my choice. I have been educated. I grew up in the Anglican Church and I intend to die as an Anglican. I have strong beliefs, but I do not impose my views on anyone because this is a multi-religious society.”
Granger went at lengths to register his tolerance to other people’s beliefs. However, the Head of State noted that he also has respect for the State as a whole and strongly believes that the “State should not allow itself to be swayed by one or the other.”
The President also pointed out that the international goalposts on certain issues shift from time to time. He said that there was one time when people tolerated judicial execution for certain crimes, but many now feel that such should be abolished.
“There was a time when same-sex relations were punishable by law, but in many countries those laws have been repealed, we have to keep abreast with what is happening in other countries. At the same time we try not to get ahead of what the people want,” said Granger.
With Guyana being the only jurisdiction in South America with a law against homosexual activity, the previous government had taken a step that could lead to that law being repealed.
During the life of the Tenth Parliament, former Prime Minister, Samuel Hinds had asked the National Assembly to name a special committee to consider repealing the laws against sodomy and cross-dressing, along with possible abolition of corporal punishment in the schools and the death penalty.
He also asked Parliament to study a proposed prohibition on discrimination against lesbians, gays, bi-sexual and transgender persons.
Hinds took this to the National Assembly as he indicated that after discussions with the United Nations Human Rights Council in May 2010 and September 2010, Guyana had committed to review those issues. The committee was set up, but not much work was done.
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