Features — 17 December 2013 — by Adele Ramos
Tomlinson sued Jamaica media over LGBT ad

As 2013 draws to a close, verdict on LGBT challenge to Belize’s anti-sodomy law and immigration law pending

As 2013 draws to a close, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has yet to announce whether it will permit a legal challenge by LGBT activist Maurice Tomlinson against the immigration laws of Belize and Trinidad and Tobago, on the claim that those laws restrict his right to free movement enshrined in the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, establishing the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME).

The legal challenge to Belize came after UNIBAM went to the Supreme Court of Belize with a constitutional claim – challenging Section 53 of Belize’s Criminal Code, which includes provisions with penalties for unnatural intercourse, including sodomy and bestiality. As 2013 draws to a close, the decision by Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin in regards to that challenge is still pending.

Whereas Belize does not have a dedicated constitutional court to hear such claims, Jamaica does. It was that court which in mid-November dismissed a challenge which Tomlinson had filed against three media entities in his home country – after they refused an ad, starring Tomlinson.

The ad, produced for Aids Free World, an organization for which Tomlinson is an attorney, was promoting tolerance for LGBT persons. In the half-minute advert, a woman who Tomlinson called Aunt Yvonne told him: “I don’t know why you are gay, but as a Jamaican, I respect you and I love you…”

Tomlinson, who had married a Canadian priest overseas last January, said in the advert that he was still trying to get Jamaicans to respect his human rights.

Tomlinson could not get the ad aired by CVM and Television Jamaica (TVJ), and it was also rejected by the State-run Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica (PBCJ).

Jamaica’s Constitutional Court found that the private media houses have journalistic discretion and they reserve the right to air or not to air what they choose to. In the case of PBCJ, the court said that that entity’s policy is that it does not air paid ads.

As in the CCJ case against Belize and Trinidad, Tomlinson was represented by British baron, Anthony Gifford, QC.

The Jamaica court declared that while the duty of broadcasters is to cover public issues fairly and accurately, that does not mean they are under a legal obligation to provide anyone who wishes to speak on an issue, access to the airwaves.

The court expressed the view that the right of freedom of expression does not mean that anyone has the right to use another person’s property to disseminate his views—citing the need to retain editorial control over how a particular issue is covered.

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