Saturday, April 29, 2017

Senators in biblical clash over gay unions

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what book?: Corrine Baptiste-McKnight

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Invoking biblical injunction against homosexuality, Minister in the Ministry of National Security Subhas Panday on Tuesday sought to dampen criticisms against Government's decision not to include same-sex unions in the Statutory Authorities Amendment bill.

The Senate was debating a measure which would allow the next of kin of public servants working with the Statutory Authorities to get the benefit of one month's salary on the death of the public servant.

This benefit has been enjoyed by public servants who fall under the Civil Service Act since the 1950s.

However, Independent Senators Dr James Armstrong and Corrine Baptiste-McKnight argued that in the same way the definition of next of kin was broadened to include a cohabitational spouse and a child born out of wedlock, the definition of cohabitational person should not be confined to a "person of the opposite sex".

Armstrong said this was "very antiquated". Baptiste-McKnight noted that on Monday, Valentine's Day, a lot of same-sex partners gave each other roses.

"As it (the legislation) stands you are entrenching in a day and age (something) when the laws and recognition of fact are moving in a direction which you seem to be bucking," she said.

She said the Government should have another thought for the same-sex partner as well as the situation of the unmarried, childless public servant.

Panday rose, with the question: "Would you reconcile that with Section 52 in the Book of Leviticus?"

"Section 52 in what?" Baptiste-McKnight asked.

"In the book of Leviticus," he repeated. "In the book of who?" she asked again, causing chuckles.

(The book of Leviticus in the Bible states: "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them".)

Baptiste-McKnight then said: "Let me tell you something, Leviticus is a Christian something that existed long ago. We are here today. And if you want to go back to Leviticus, there are many, many occasions on which I would take you not only to Leviticus but to the Ark. Yuh playing fast and loose, you getting into infelicitous language, don't do that with me."

Public Administration Minister Rudrawatee Nan Ramgoolam said the issue was a cultural and legal one. Culturally, it was an "evolving and sensitive issue" which "was addressing the attention of the world", she said.

Legally, she stated, she believed it (homosexuality) was illegal on this country's law books and therefore "the cart can't go before the horse. Let's get it right!" she declared to desk-thumping support from the Government bench.

She said "that issue" was "now to be discussed, bisected, stripped, the society was becoming more aware of it ... and with time and awareness, there would probably come acceptance, tolerance, whatever, which would lead to the legislative changes".

She added: "It is a cultural issue and that calls for a national intervention. That issue does not really arise here, at this point in time."