Archive for the 'Jamaica' Category

Obama Applauds LGBT Advocate During Jamaica Speech

Angeline Jackson. Photo: Michael KeyRepost from The Washington Blade

President Obama on Thursday applauded a prominent Jamaican LGBT rights advocate as he spoke during a town hall meeting in the country’s capital.

Angeline Jackson, executive director of Quality of Citizenship Jamaica, a group that advocates on behalf of lesbian and bisexual women and transgender Jamaicans, was among those in the audience at University of the West Indies in Kingston when Obama described her as one of the island’s “remarkable young leaders.”

Obama during his speech noted that Jackson founded Quality of Citizenship Jamaica after she and a friend were kidnapped, held at gunpoint and sexually assaulted.

“As a woman and as a lesbian, justice and society weren’t always on her side,” said the president. “But instead of remaining silent she chose to speak out and started her own organization to advocate for women like her, get them treatment and get them justice and push back against stereotypes and give them some sense of their own power. And she became a global activist.” Continue Reading

President Obama Comments on Yesterday’s DOMA Supreme Court Ruling

President Obama’s remarks at a joint press conference in Senegal, where after speaking about yesterday’s Court decision on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), he addressed the treatment of LGBT people in Africa.

You can read the transcripts from the full press conference here.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, first of all, I think the Supreme Court ruling yesterday was not simply a victory for the LGBT community, it’s a victory for American democracy.  I believe at the root of who we are as a people, who we are as Americans is the basic precept that we are all equal under the law.  We believe in basic fairness.  And what I think yesterday’s ruling signifies is one more step towards ensuring that those basic principles apply to everybody.

When I spoke to Ms. Windsor — 83 years old — and I thought about the 40 years of her relationship and her partner, who is now passed, for her to live to see this day where that relationship was the vehicle whereby more people received their rights and are recognized as a testament to the love and commitment that they have made to each other, that was special.  And that’s just a microcosm of what it meant for families and their children all across America.  So it was a proud day I think for America.

Now, as you point out, there are a whole lot of implications that flow from it, because the Supreme Court did not make a blanket ruling that applies nationally, but rather lifted up the ability of states to recognize the dignity and respect of same-sex marriage, and that the federal government couldn’t negate the decision by those states.  We now have to comb through every federal statute.  And although we hadn’t pre-judged what the ruling had been, I had asked my White House Counsel to help work with lawyers across every agency in the federal government to start getting a sense of what statutes would be implicated and what it will mean for us to administratively apply the rule that federal benefits apply to all married couples.

What’s true though is that you still have a whole bunch of states that do not recognize it.  The Supreme Court continues to leave it up to the states to make these decisions.  And we are going to have to go back and do a legal analysis of what that means.  It’s my personal belief — but I’m speaking now as a President as opposed to as a lawyer — that if you’ve been married in Massachusetts and you move someplace else, you’re still married, and that under federal law you should be able to obtain the benefits of any lawfully married couple.  But I’m speaking as a President, not a lawyer.

So we’re going to be evaluating all these issues and making sure that we work through them in a systematic and prompt way, because now that the Supreme Court has spoken it’s important that people who deserve these benefits know that they’re getting them quickly.  And I know that, for example, Chuck Hagel already mentioned some work that the Department of Defense is doing on that front.  And I think we’re going to be seeing that in all the various agencies.

Now, this topic did not come up in the conversation that I had with President Sall in a bilateral meeting.  But let me just make a general statement.  The issue of gays and lesbians, and how they’re treated, has come up and has been controversial in many parts of Africa.  So I want the African people just to hear what I believe, and that is that every country, every group of people, every religion have different customs, different traditions.  And when it comes to people’s personal views and their religious faith, et cetera, I think we have to respect the diversity of views that are there.

But when it comes to how the state treats people, how the law treats people, I believe that everybody has to be treated equally.  I don’t believe in discrimination of any sort.  That’s my personal view.  And I speak as somebody who obviously comes from a country in which there were times when people were not treated equally under the law, and we had to fight long and hard through a civil rights struggle to make sure that happens.

So my basic view is that regardless of race, regardless of religion, regardless of gender, regardless of sexual orientation, when it comes to how the law treats you, how the state treats you — the benefits, the rights and the responsibilities under the law — people should be treated equally.  And that’s a principle that I think applies universally, and the good news is it’s an easy principle to remember.

Every world religion has this basic notion that is embodied in the Golden Rule — treat people the way you want to be treated.  And I think that applies here as well.

Kudos to Simpson Miller on gay rights

Portia Simpson Miller on gays in her cabinetRepost from The Jamaica Gleaner

This newspaper commends the leader of the People’s National Party (PNP), Portia Simpson Miller, for her mature stand on whether gays could serve in a government she leads and, more broadly, the rights of homosexuals.

Mrs Simpson Miller argued, rightly, that people’s sexual orientation is their business. She doesn’t want to be a voyeur. The pertinent consideration in appointing a Cabinet, therefore, is competence.

By contrast, Prime Minister Andrew Holness waffled, arguing that his “sentiment must be the sentiment of Jamaica”. That, essentially, is homophobic.

But the responsibility of leaders is to lead, not merely to reflect popular sentiment.

In that regard, we welcome the pledge of a PNP administration to review the buggery law and allow a conscience vote on the matter. We urge Mrs Simpson Miller to go further, making the repeal of a law that has no place in the 21st century a platform promise.

Related: Watch Portia Simpson Miller, during a Jamaican Election Debate, address whether or not she would have gay people in her cabinet.

Corporate America’s Response to Homophobia Abroad

Coke Zero Live on the WaterfrontWhen a company facilitates public expressions of homophobia – even inadvertently – what response is it obligated to take?

That question has confronted the Coca-Cola Company since late April, when a concert it co-sponsored in Jamaica became an outlet for homophobic rantings by Sizzla, one of Jamaica’s most prominent reggae musicians. Sizzla’s history of anti-gay lyrics is well-documented and well-known; his performance in Montego Bay, in keeping with that tradition, included the performance of a song that calls for the murder of gay people.

Coca-Cola, of course, has a commendable score of 100 on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index over many years, and no one has charged Coke with discriminating against its LGBT employees in Jamaica or elsewhere. But that, of course, isn’t the issue.

What happened in Jamaica was, on one level, a stunning display of professional error. In the largest sense, the local Coca-Cola bottling company that signed up to sponsor the waterfront event clearly failed to do any due diligence on Sizzla. Nor apparently did the company include, in its sponsorship agreement, any clause outlining its expectations regarding the performances it underwrote. Heads may or may not roll over these basic professional failures, but surely the waterfront fiasco could have been avoided had the company put in place even the most rudimentary professional safeguards against these mistakes. Continue reading ‘Corporate America’s Response to Homophobia Abroad’

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