In Port of Spain, Trinidad an amendment to a minor bill in parliament about spousal payments evoked a storm of controversy. The debate began when some senators called for same-sex couples to be included in a bill about who could be paid a month’s salary after a civil servant dies. Some in parliament wanted domestic partners to be eligible, a suggestion that quickly became a firestorm.
The amendment to the Statutory Authorities Act that triggered the same-sex union debate states in part: “Where the [deceased] officer has no spouse, the payment … may be made to the officer’s cohabitant.” It defined cohabitant as “a person of the opposite sex who, while not married to the officer, continuously cohabited in a bona fide domestic relationship with the officer.”
Colin Robinson, spokesman for the Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (CAISO), a gay rights group said the language should have been more inclusive. “It was a missed opportunity for the government to stop that kind of discriminatory policy,’’ he said. “Our leaders need to stand up and say discrimination in all forms is wrong and will be punished. Unambiguously.” Mr. Robinson said his organization has met with government leaders to discuss issues affecting the gay community in Trinidad but has not seen any results. The discrimination against gays makes discussion in Trinidad about the right to marry immaterial, Robinson said.
Anal sex remains a crime in Trinidad, as it does in Guyana, St. Lucia and most countries in the region. In Trinidad, it is punishable by up to 25 years in prison. In Guyana, cross-dressing is a violation. According to Immigration Equality, a New York-based law firm that represents gays seeking to migrate to the United States, courts in the U.S. have acknowledged that persecution of gay and transgendered people in the Caribbean is a concern.
Seven Trinidad nationals have been granted U.S. asylum over the past five years on the basis of being discriminated against because of sexual orientation. The asylums were granted after clients complained of violence, gay bashings, threats and blackmail.
Source: Miami Herald