Post submitted by HRC Global Senior Manager Taylor N. T. Brown
More than 3,000 LGBTQ community members and allies planned to gather last week in Montego Bay, Jamaica, to celebrate the city’s fifth annual Pride. The theme of this year’s Pride was “Let Love Live.”
But the event, intended to celebrate the lives of LGBTQ people, build connections, advocate for change and demonstrate the resilience and inclusivity of the local community through film screenings, public forums and faith services, never happened -- because of the discriminatory actions of Montego Bay Mayor Homer Davis.
In September, Davis spoke out against the planned Pride events, characterizing a scheduled discussion on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional. He also refused to allow the event to take place at the Montego Bay Cultural Centre, asserting it would “disturb the sacredness and purpose of why that building is there.”
Davis’ words reverberated throughout the community, and Montego Bay Pride organizers found that venues would no longer rent to them. Disturbingly, the local police also informed organizers that they could not guarantee their safety at a planned march, forcing Pride organizers to cancel this year’s events.
When HRC learned of these developments, we reached out to Pride organizers, shared news about the dangerous implications of Davis’ actions and, on Sept. 25, sent a letter to the mayor and other officials voicing support for Montego Bay Pride and Jamaicans’ fundamental rights.
Montego Bay Pride has since filed a complaint with the Supreme Court of Jamaica claiming that Davis’ actions were “discriminatory, unconstitutional and ultra vires,” or beyond his jurisdiction. On Oct. 14, the Supreme Court issued an interim order ensuring Montego Bay Pride the right to rent space from the Montego Bay Cultural Centre for Pride.
Davis appealed the decision, and secured a stay of the court order. In a subsequent appeal by Pride organizers to lift the stay, the Court of Appeal sided with the mayor on a technicality.
Despite these setbacks, Montego Bay Pride organizers continue to fight for Pride and ensure their rights to free speech and assembly. HRC joins them in calling on the mayor to uphold their fundamental rights.
These events demonstrate the continuing challenges LGBTQ people in Jamaica face in seeking to exercise their fundamental rights. But they also show the world the remarkable resilience of the LGBTQ community and its allies in Montego Bay.
HRC encourages other allies of Jamaica’s LGBTQ community and those wishing to support Montego Bay Pride organizers to amplify these stories on social media. We must lend our voices to advocates on the ground to let Mayor Davis know that he cannot block LGBTQ Jamaicans from exercising their fundamental rights.
For more information about HRC’s work around the world, visit hrc.org/Global.