Last edited: February 14, 2005

Britain Scraps Homosexuality Laws

Associated Press, January 5, 2001

By Marcelo Ballve

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Britain has scrapped laws making homosexuality a crime in its five Caribbean territories, acting after legislatures refused to do so.

London’s move angered religious leaders, who say homosexuality is immoral and goes against the grain of the deeply religious and socially conservative islands.

"This is totally unacceptable to the minds of the Christian community here," the Rev. Nicholas Sykes, chief pastor of the Church of England in the Cayman Islands, said Friday.

The order from the British Privy Council, which acts as the highest court for the territories, decriminalizes homosexual acts between consenting adults in private. The order went into effect this week and applies to Anguilla, the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Montserrat and the Turks and Caicos.

Britain’s government said the anti-gay laws violate international human rights agreements it has signed. Britain has the power to unilaterally revoke the statutes, but had attempted for years to persuade local politicians to repeal the laws in island legislatures.

Religious leaders and local politicians said the disagreement over homosexuality reveals a widening cultural rift between what they condemned as an increasingly atheist Britain and its faraway Caribbean possessions.

The territories could opt for independence. But they do not appear to consider a break from the United Kingdom a serious option and appeared resigned to following the order.

"There is nothing we can do about it," said Orlando Smith, a legislator in the British Virgin Islands.

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