December 6, 2014 at 1:14 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Anti-LGBT advocates from U.S. to speak at Jamaica conference
Mat Staver, Liberty Council, gay news, Washington Blade

Mat Staver, chair of the Liberty Counsel, is scheduled to speak at a conference in the Jamaican capital on Saturday that groups defending the island’s sodomy law have organized. (Photo by Gage Skidmore; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Two American anti-LGBT advocates on Saturday are scheduled to speak at a Jamaica conference organized by groups defending the country’s sodomy law.

Mat Staver, chair of the Liberty Counsel, and Dr. Judith Reisman, who routinely challenges Alfred Kinsey’s research on sexuality, are among those expected to attend the International Human Rights Conference in Kingston, the Jamaican capital, that the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society has co-organized with the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship and Jamaica CAUSE.

The conference’s program states Staver will discuss “global legal trends impacting the institution of the family.” Reisman will speak about “Kinsey heritage and the threat to family.”

“Contemporary society has become increasingly hostile to the traditional definitions of marriage and family,” reads the conference’s program. “Yet these two institutions are the ideal, fundamental and valuable components for a healthy national development. Conference speakers and participants will explore the reasons for family, the threats against it and how to practically build a culture of family in the Jamaican context.”

The Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society, the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship and Jamaica CAUSE are also organizing a rally at a Kingston park on Dec. 10 that will coincide with International Human Rights Day. They describe the event as “an evening of song, dance and poetry celebrating God the giver of perfect law and rights.”

The Liberty Counsel in recent years has defended Florida’s constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman and other anti-LGBT laws in the U.S. The group last year filed a federal lawsuit against the New Jersey statute that bans “ex-gay” conversion therapy.

Reisman in a May 2013 column she wrote for World Net Daily blasted the Boy Scouts of America’s decision to lift its ban on openly gay Scouts.

“Eroticize the campsite and you eroticize boys to one another and to their leaders,” she said. “‘Gay Scoutmasters’ will arrive soon to ‘help’ ‘their’ lads, to train and encourage them — to believe they are naturally ‘that way.’”

Reisman in 2009 suggested the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network is “a modern version of the Hitler Youth.”

Jamaican LGBT advocates blast conference organizers

Piero Tozzi of the Alliance Defending Freedom spoke about the need to keep the statute in place during a 2011 symposium the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society and the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship held at the University of the West Indies in Kingston.

Brian Camenker of MassResistence, an anti-LGBT organization based in suburban Boston the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as a hate group, spoke at a Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society rally that took place in a Kingston park last December. The group and the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship earlier that month co-organized a conference in the Jamaican capital at which Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for the Truth About Homosexuality, spoke.

Jamaican LGBT rights advocates with whom the Washington Blade spoke this week sharply criticized the Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society, the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship and Jamaica CAUSE for inviting Staver and Reisman to speak at their conference.

“I find it interesting that the groups which argue that Jamaica is importing ‘foreign values,’ which urge us to resist ‘North American’ influences and which repeatedly accuse LGBT Jamaicans of being supported and assisted by ‘foreigners’ are themselves inviting ‘foreigners,’ the very same evil Americans and Europeans into our country,” said Angeline Jackson, executive director of Quality of Citizenship Jamaica, a group that advocates on behalf of lesbian and bisexual women and transgender Jamaicans.

Angeline Jackson, Quality of Citizenship Jamaica, gay news, Washington Blade

Angeline Jackson, executive director of Quality of Citizenship Jamaica. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“It always amazes me that as Jamaicans we often resist information that is new and different to what we have known, even if it comes from other Jamaicans and worse if it is coming from a ‘white person,’” added Jackson in an e-mail to the Blade. “Yet we are the very same ones who will hang on to every word of the ‘white person’ who continues to provide us with information we already believe and are comfortable with.”

Yvonne McCalla Sobers, chair of Dwayne’s House, an organization named after Dwayne Jones, a cross-dressing teenager who was murdered last year outside Montego Bay, that provides support to young LGBT Jamaicans who are homeless, agreed.

“Local conservative Pentecostalists have close links with U.S. counterparts who carry to countries like Jamaica the anti-gay venom that North America and Europe no longer tolerates,” she told the Blade. “So it is no surprise to see these speakers in Jamaica. It’s just alarming to see them trying to capture International Human Rights Day. [It is] rather similar to the Ku Klux Klan trying to take over Black History Month.”

Mark Clifford, co-chair of PRIDE in Action, a Kingston-based LGBT advocacy group, suggested Staver and Reisman have traveled to Jamaica because “anti-gay bigots are finding their world shrinking in the U.S.”

“They are looking towards more fertile ground to spread their message of hate,” Clifford told the Blade. “That’s why they come to countries like Uganda, Jamaica, etc., where many people haven’t yet moved on from the Victorian conservatism of 19th century colonial life.”

Staver, Reisman and the three groups organizing the conference did not return the Blade’s request for comment.

Anti-LGBT violence, discrimination commonplace in Jamaica

A report from the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays says the organization knows of at least 30 gay men who have been murdered on the Caribbean island between 1997 and 2004. These include J-FLAG co-founder Brian Williamson who was stabbed to death inside his Kingston home in 2004.

Jones’ murder sparked global outrage.

Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller said shortly before her 2011 election that her government would review the country’s anti-sodomy law. A so-called conscience vote that would allow parliamentarians to consult with their constituents on the issue has yet to take place.

Javed Jaghai, a gay rights advocate who challenged the sodomy law in the Jamaica Supreme Court, in August withdrew his lawsuit because of what he described as concerns over his personal safety and that of his family.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

1 Comment
  • What's tragic is that Mat Stavers anti-gay rhetoric continues to fuel the fire of ignorance and hate. Jamaica needs more Angeline Jacksons and Yvonne McCalla Sobers. The toll this anti-gay venom takes on a human soul is brilliantly illuminated in Bryan Christopher's "ex-gay" survivor memoir, "Hiding from Myself." The Liberty counsel's gospel of hate is unacceptable and we need to stand up and combat their lies! Thank you Michael for a great article and may it become a rallying cry for the support of oppressed Jamaicans!

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