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Hard head bird don’t make good soup


Published: Aug 29, 2017

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Dear Editor,

 

American comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory passed away recently. A few years ago, he was asked about the campaign for civil rights in the U.S.

Gregory replied that extending civil rights to black Americans had unexpected positive consequences up and down the American social spectrum. By asserting that all people are equal, the Civil Rights Act opened doors of opportunity that had previously been closed to women of all colors, to the handicapped of every stripe and even to white senior citizens. It even provided refuge for Jews and Catholics, two of the most maligned denominations in the U.S. at that time.

Perhaps the obstinate Pastor Cedric Moss has a real fear of what doors may be flung open when we extend the basic human right of equal treatment before the law to our gay brothers, lesbian sisters and transgendered cousins. Could many of our discriminatory laws against women be struck down next?

Moss seems incapable of grasping the thesis of the moral argument which is to keep church and state separated as the constitution commands.

All Bahamians should vigorously defend his right and that of all other persons of faith to practice their religion without fear or favor. If the pastor doesn’t believe in same-sex marriages or civil unions then he should ban them in his church. Case closed.

He must not, however, seek to impose his particular religious beliefs on persons of other faiths or of no faith at all. What could be clearer than that?

Moss seems incapable of showing any compassion or love towards those same gender loving people he considers to be immoral. He thinks being gay is an immoral perversion despite scientific evidence that people don’t choose their sexual orientation – it is in their nature to prefer relationships with members of the same sex, members of the opposite sex or both.

Anything that doesn’t comport with his definition of morality or his religion’s teaching is therefore immoral.

Thankfully we are a commonwealth of different people united around the principle that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain rights. We organize a government to protect and expand those rights.

Moss’ curious references to polygamy and incest notwithstanding, the issue of marriage equality must be addressed on the level of principle, and not sidetracked by pastoral deviations that have nothing to do with equality.

The point bears repeating to the pastor that a wedding ceremony in a church or a synagogue or a mosque is a faith-based celebration of a legal contract. All religions must enjoy the right to decide who they let in to partake in that celebration. But they do not get a right to decide for the entire country who gets to enter into a legal contract.

Moss contends that either Parliament, by passing a law to codify discrimination against people he finds objectionable, or the people via a popularity contest called a referendum, should decide who gets protected by the constitution’s human rights umbrella and who gets rained upon.

Unwittingly he hit on the crux of the matter. Human rights are non-negotiable principles which should enjoy entrenched status in our constitution. For this reason, we have an independent judiciary, immune from influence of the executive and sworn to protect the rights of all, especially “the least among us”.

An MP who is going to stand for re-election might place political survival above morality or conscience. A judge with security of tenure is presumed to be free to forgo popularity and uphold the law. The court is a counter-majoritarian institution.

It has been suggested that an ambitious young lawyer may challenge the court on marriage equality. I expect our judges to exercise the John F. Kennedy doctrine. In a speech 57 years ago, the Catholic presidential candidate said: “I believe in a president whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation or imposed by the nation on him as a condition to holding that office.”

Judges live in the real word and they see evolution all around. They have gay family and friends. They see that long-held views on gay people have been debunked around the world and they have come to see the marriage equality debate in terms of human rights, not religious ideology.

Despite what Moss may think, the public’s attitude towards gays has evolved. Bahamians are more tolerant of each other today than the pastor would have us believe. On gay issues The Bahamas is more progressive and accepting than many of our Caribbean sister states.

In a 2013 case in the U.S. Supreme Court, United States v. Windsor, the court gave an instructive clue to how their judges were in lock-step with changing mores: “For marriage between a man and a woman no doubt had been thought of by most people as essential to the very definition of that term and to its role and function throughout the history of civilization.

“That belief, for many who long have held it, became even more urgent, more cherished when challenged. For others, however, came the beginnings of a new perspective, a new insight. The limitation of lawful marriage to heterosexual couples, which for centuries had been deemed both necessary and fundamental, came to be seen as an unjust exclusion.”

Moss seems incapable of grasping the fact that while he may reside on solid religious ground, his argument against marriage equality is built on legal quicksand.

Moss and others of his mindset may choose to look the other way as the locomotive of justice rolls on, but they can never again say that they did not know what was coming.

I refer Moss to a quote from a noted Bahamian philosopher and scholar who used Latin to close out debate back in the day: Fini disputationem (end of discussion).

 

– The Graduate

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