Members of Jamaica Anti-Homophobia Stand, a group that advocates for LGBT Jamaicans, interrupted Simpson-Miller as she spoke at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Manhattan.
The advocates challenged the Jamaican prime minister over what they perceive as her government’s insufficient response to rampant anti-LGBT violence on the island that continues to make headlines around the world. This includes the release of a video earlier this month that reportedly shows a gay teenager being stoned to death in a street.
The Jamaica-Gleaner, a Jamaican newspaper, reported that Simpson-Miller challenged the protesters from the podium.
“Nobody ever hears the government of Jamaica beating up gays; not one,” she said. “Let me tell you something; you want to disturb, you can disturb, but this woman came here with the blood of Nanny of the Maroons and the spirit of Marcus Mosiah Garvey, and this woman is not afraid of no man, nowhere, anywhere. And I will speak the truth everywhere.”
A video of the confrontation that Jamaica Anti-Homophobia Stand posted to its Facebook page shows Simpson-Miller leaving the podium and the stage from where she was speaking.
Members of the advocacy group also confronted her outside the church. They chanted “Gay rights Portia. Protect Jamaica’s gays” as she entered the building.
“We pretty much interrupted her speech,” Michael Forbes, a member of Jamaica Anti-Homophobia Stand who protested Simpson-Miller, told the Washington Blade on Friday during a telephone interview from New York.
Forbes — who claims he was handcuffed and beaten inside a police station in St. Ann on the island’s northern coast — dismissed the prime minister’s decision to challenge the protesters before she left the stage.
“She was quite disturbed that we said something,” Forbes told the Blade. “She didn’t finish her speech.”
A report from the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians All-Sexuals and Gays, a Jamaican LGBT advocacy group, notes at least 30 gay men 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 home in Kingston, the Jamaican capital, in 2004.
The murder of Dwayne Jones, a cross-dressing teenager, outside the resort city of Montego Bay in July 2013 sparked global outrage.
Jamaica is among the English-speaking countries in the Caribbean in which consensual same-sex sexual acts remain criminalized.
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, last August withdrew his lawsuit because of what he described as concerns over his personal safety and that of his family.
Mat Staver, chair of the Liberty Counsel, and Dr. Judith Reisman, who publicly challenges Alfred Kinsey’s research on sexuality, last December spoke at a Kingston conference that groups opposed to repealing the country’s sodomy law organized. Americans for the Truth About Homosexuality President Peter LaBarbera and Piero Tozzi of the Alliance Defending Freedom are among the other anti-LGBT advocates from the U.S. who have traveled to Jamaica in recent years.