27 February 2012

Liberia: House Decides Anti-Gay Bill 28 Feb.

Members of the House of Representatives are expected to consider a bill which will forbid same sex marriage here on Tuesday.

Their move will follow that of the Senate, which has vowed to ban the act and make it a criminal offence.

The anti-homosexual bills have been lingering in the corridors of the Capitol Building for about a month now.

The bills, though with similar intents were submitted before both houses plenary just about the same time.

Former first lady Jewel Howard Taylor is said to be sponsoring the bill before the Senate, while, Lofa County District #5 Representative Clarence Massaquoi sponsors the bill before the House.

Public hearing was conducted in the House on Friday, while the Senate anti-gay bill is still in committee rooms.

Public pressure is said to be mounting on members of the National Legislature to pass the anti-gay and lesbian bills before the end of Match this year.

The passage of the anti-gay bills, it is believed, will ease the tension about same sex marriage here.

Last Thursday, a pro-gay activist escaped a crowd of angry mob that had gathered outside a radio station to lynch him while he was on the station's breakfast show defending same sex marriage. The protest against same sex marriage is increasing at the time Christians here are gathering one million signatures to declare Liberia a Christian nation.

The anti-gay bill, which was submitted just weeks after President Sirleaf was sworn in for the second time, was read on the floor of plenary and thereafter sent to committee room under the growl of House' Speaker Alex Tyler for thorough checking and public views, but it had appeared to be forgotten until recently.

This paper gathers that the Chief Clark of the House of Representatives has been strictly instructed to include the bill on Tuesday's agenda for possible action to be taken by plenary if the required numbers are obtained for passage.

It appears that the bill has so far won the minds of many lawmakers for positive action this week. But some influential lawmakers are arguing that the passage of the bill will contravene the Liberian Constitution which calls for freedom of association.

However, one law maker who begs not to be named for fear of reappraisal told this paper that that the issue of association as mentioned in the Constitution does not only mean grouping of people for political reasons but also association of intimacy or sexual association. He said there is also no law that legalizes marriage between opposite sex and that the Liberian Constitution is silent on the issues of marital affairs.

The lawmaker furthered stated that the Liberian Constitution places emphasis on the issue of freedom, "our Constitution says that everyone has the freedom of association as long as the practice of that freedom does not harm anyone, there is no reason for us as lawmakers to object to that freedom and for those who are only engage in that practice rights should not be tempered with", the lawmaker.

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