Islands Resist Demand They Decriminalize Homosexuality
August 26, 1999
300 - 1450 Don Mills Road, Don Mills, Ontario, M3B 3R5
By Charles Laurence, National Post
GRAND TURK, TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS Crowns, flags and passports
may be one thing, but having to tolerate homosexuality is quite another, say the islanders
of the remote British West Indies outpost of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Londons latest attempt to wipe the last pink dots of empire from the modern map
has run into furious, unexpected opposition over demands to change the islands own
laws to bring them in line with current notions of human rights.
Anyone caught engaging in homosexual acts, even in private, can now be jailed for life.
And "belongers," as the islanders are known, want to keep it that way.
The Bible, they say, describes homosexual activity as an "abomination," and
as a God-fearing people they intend to resist imperialist demands to defy Gods word
in favour of the British governments.
Plans for the decriminalization of homosexual acts performed in private were spotted in
the small print of last Marchs white paper from the British Foreign Office on the
future of British dependent territories.
The big scheme of the white paper is to change dependent territories to overseas
On one hand, the deal is that islanders will get full British passports, allowing them
to work anywhere in the European Union. On the other, it is to "regulate" the
offshore finance industry to stop money laundering, and, gradually, to treat the Turks and
Caicos just as if they were Surrey or Kent. And this means conforming to the European
Charter on Human Rights.
Pastor Derek Hamilton, president of the Baptist Union and one of the most powerful
voices on the islands, which have a population of 15,000, said: "The British white
paper shrouds legalizing homosexuality in human rights. God did give His humans freedom of
choice to do right and wrong, but He did not give freedom to define right and wrong. He
places homosexuality prominently in His law as wrong.
Only a year ago, the Baptist Union had voted to "unconditionally reject" any
liberalizing of the homosexuality laws, and congregations have raised their voices in a
This has left the governor, John Kelly, with a diplomatic problem. It is his job to
persuade the local parliament to amend their laws, and he offers recent legislation in
Bermuda as an example.
"The church feels homosexuality is an abomination, and I agree with them," he
"We are not suggesting they change their ideas or attitudes. What we want them to
say is that homosexuality is an abomination, but is not criminal any longer, just as in
the Bible adultery is sinful but is not criminal in most jurisdictions."
He points out that no one is currently in jail for such a crime, and no one can
remember any prosecution under the island laws. But he also adds a warning with an echo of
the old gunboats: If the territories fail to change their laws, London will change them