PHILIPSBURG/ORANJESTAD/WILLEMSTAD--The main Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) organisations of St. Maarten, Curaçao and Aruba have issued a joint declaration, calling for marriage rights to be viewed as necessary civil and human rights, and for them to be extended to the remainder of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
St. Maarten/St. Martin Alliance for Equality (SAFE) President Lysanne Charles-Arrindell signed and issued the declaration on behalf of SAFE, Alternative Lifestyle Federation Aruba (ALFA) and Curaçao Pride Foundation Fundashon Orguyo Korsou FOKO over the weekend.
The document will also be submitted to Government after some more research into the process, and a tripartite meeting is planned for the near future to discuss how to further proceed, Arrindell said in an invited comment.
The groups opened by jointly declaring “that the only acceptable end result of the struggles for the rights of committed LGBTI couples is the granting of full marriage rights to same-sex couples in each of the Caribbean countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.”
The groups explained that “the demand is not that churches be forced to marry LGBTI people in their places of worship. Personal emotions and theologies have no place in this discussion. That's why the religious institution of marriage on one side and secular civil marriage on the other side, are two different things that should remain separate.
“We urge lawmakers to consider the very notion of having their civil and legal rights removed or limited due to one aspect of their person, be it race, ethnicity or sexual orientation.
“What is being demanded is that access to the package of legal protections, rights and benefits included in civil marriage be inclusive of all citizens, whether heterosexual or LGBTI.”
In drawing from international examples, the groups said that: “The emotion of marriage is something that remains intact within all of our societies; the notion of caring for another, protecting that individual and growing together in life is an ideal that any individual can appreciate.
“What is missing from this equation for those LGBTI citizens of our societies are the legal protections and obligations that come with marriage. It should not be that legal protections are extended to LGBTI citizens in some parts of the Kingdom (the Netherlands and the Caribbean Netherlands) and continue to be denied to LGBTI citizens in ...Curaçao, Aruba and St. Maarten.”
SAFE, ALFA and FOKO, said they strongly call on the parliamentarians, political parties, lawyers and community leaders of these islands to, while recognising religious differences and those based on other convictions and beliefs, accept that LGBTI rights are civil rights and as such human rights, and cannot be limited by religious or personal beliefs.
They ask that these influencers “recognise that the universal principle of equality demands that LGBTI people and couples are not excluded from basic rights, nor limited in their access to these rights. This includes the right to marry the one you vow to love and care for.”
The groups assert that the struggles of the LGBTI community on the islands is an extension of the struggle against slavery and forced labour, the struggle for equal rights for women, and the struggle for autonomy of the 20th century movements of the people against racism and colonialism.
The resolution was written “with the recognition that LGBTI rights are human rights, and that marriage equality falls within the scope of human and civil rights.”
Based on the advocacy, counselling and educational work of the respective organisations, they emphasised that the “declaration is in line with the deepest wishes of the LGBTI and allied individuals within our local societies. This is in strong contradiction to the often-heard notion and argument that marriage equality in our countries is being imposed by the Netherlands.”
This resolution, the groups said, “disqualifies that notion. These diverse communities have always existed in significant numbers on each island, contributing to the development of their communities through their work in governmental, private, cultural and other sectors of society, often in leadership positions.
“They have always fulfilled the imposed legal obligations of our countries, while being unable to benefit from the same legal protections as other people meeting those obligations.”
Equality was defined as three, equal things: protection against stigma and discrimination such as bullying, homelessness, termination of employment, refusal of housing; LGBTI inclusive policies and legislation on areas such as inheritance, pension, family-life; and marriage and relationship equality.
Their fulfilment “cannot continue to be postponed due to the belief that society is ‘not ready.’ The greatest civil rights moments in the history of the world and our countries did not wait for society to be ready or for society to provide activists with permission to demand their basic rights.
“What if human rights fighters like Tula, Betico Croes, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, would have decided to postpone their struggle for that reason? We have not undertaken a journey to change the religious beliefs of our respective societies, nor do we wish to do so.”
The groups point to the situation in the Netherlands and United States as “two countries that our people like to look up to where democracy and civil rights are concerned.”
The law of the Netherlands “granted marriage rights to LGBTI couples, defined marriage as an act of commitment and mutual obligation between two people, harbouring no objective reason to restrict it on the basis of sexual orientation.”
In the US, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy was quoted in his assenting vote for LGBTI marriage earlier this year as saying: “The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times... The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality.
“This is true for all persons, whatever their sexual orientation. …There is dignity in the bond between two men or two women who seek to marry and in their autonomy to make such profound choices... Marriage responds to the universal fear that a lonely person might call out only to find no one there.
“It offers the hope of companionship and understanding and assurance that while both still live there will be someone to care for the other.”