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Gay marriage and the law in Trinidad and Tobago

Posted: February 16th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Column | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

This morning I read a story in the T&T Guardian about a discussion in the Senate regarding same-sex marriage. The story says, in part, “Finance Minister Winston Dookeran said the issue of  same-sex marriages was something Parliament would have to adjudicate upon at some time. He said there were laws on the books concerning co-habitation and ‘we don’t want to contradict one piece of legislation with another.'”

Discussion on Facebook this morning after I posted the link naturally turned to the archaic laws regarding buggery: how could we think about same-sex marriage when it is still illegal for men to have sex with men? What is a marriage for?

As the Finance Minister alluded, one must wonder whether existing laws on marriage or common law relationships–including the disposal of property and estates in inheritance law–would need to be amended before same-sex marriage could be legally countenanced in Trinidad and Tobago.

I looked it up. While the Marriage Act 1996, which you can find here on a list of our laws, does not seem to explicitly define the genders of the “parties” it mentions, the Cohabitational Relationships Act of 1998 does. That Act defines “cohabitant” as:

(a) in relation to a man, a woman who is living or has lived with a man as his wife in a cohabitational relationship; and

(b) in relation to a woman, a man who is living with or has lived with a woman as her husband in a cohabitational relationship;

‘cohabitational relationship’ means the relationship between cohabitants, who not being married to each other are living or
have lived together as husband and wife on a bona fide domestic basis”.

It also occurred to me that the Domestic Violence Act of 1999 also would need to be changed because it, too, defines a cohabitant as ” a person who has lived with or is living with a person of the opposite sex as a husband or wife although not legally married to that person”.

So it’s great that we have begun to think about the question of same-sex marriage in Trinidad and Tobago. However, we have a long way to go–legally as well as socially–before we can make it an option for our people.

(After this first was posted I got a couple of questions asking me which side I was on. This column I wrote in the T&T Guardian two years ago is pretty clear on that issue.)


8 Comments on “Gay marriage and the law in Trinidad and Tobago”

  1. 1 Trinidad & Tobago: Same Sex Marriage · Global Voices said at 9:56 am on February 16th, 2011:

    […] Lisa Allen-Agostini thinks “it’s great that we have begun to think about the question of same-sex marriage in Trinidad and Tobago…[but] we have a long way to go–legally as well as socially–before we can make it an option for our people.” Tweet […]

  2. 2 Malika said at 10:23 am on February 16th, 2011:

    It’s great that the conversation has started. About time. But I feel that its got a long way to go due to ignorance.

  3. 3 Gregory Lal-Beharie said at 2:07 pm on February 16th, 2011:

    Which side of the fence are you, on this?

  4. 4 Pablo said at 8:17 am on February 17th, 2011:

    A long way to go indeed…

  5. 5 lise said at 8:35 pm on February 17th, 2011:

    I am firmly on the side of giving human equal rights to all people regardless of race, faith, nationality, sexual orientation, disability or any other characteristic. I don’t think religious objections should matter, as we live in a secular society, not a theocracy. LGBT people deserve the right to marry and have as much misery and torment as straight people. LOL.

  6. 6 Jay Jay said at 2:10 pm on April 6th, 2011:

    I think it shouldn’t matter as well. If same sex people are happy with each other then let them be. Their going to be together anyway and go elsewhere to get married so why not just let them get married in thier own town so that their family can be there. Trinidad should let LGBT people get married their.

  7. 7 Kerwin said at 2:08 pm on May 3rd, 2011:

    Sex is sacred, so why then are we willing to support those who seek to violate it?
    It would be very sad to see the legalization of homosexuality; we are talking about rights but ignoring what is right and more so what is righteous.

  8. 8 Anonymous said at 3:42 am on December 3rd, 2013:

    I think that marriage is a beautiful thing and the ultimate way of showing your love, commitment and devotion for your partner whether it be gay, lesbian or straight. Some of the comments here speak about what is right and what is wrong. Is it right that these people have had their rights stolen? This has happened before when African people had to fight for their rights to be part of society. Where would they be if they were not given these rights? It’s 1 and the same.We fail to realize that a lot of things are wrong with society (especially in the twin island republic)and this is most definitely not one that should be of great concern or opposition. We all say that only God can judge, then who are we to deny these people or to criticize and belittle them. Who sleeps with who at the end of the night should not concern those whom it does not concern! I would personally like to see this hub of the Caribbean flourish and move up with the times and revise most of their outdated laws. Giving equal rights to 1 and all! Congratulations to those who have the opportunity to go abroad and become untied and for those who dream of the day, I hope you all have your rights given to you in the near future. “Side by side we stand … Here every creed and race find an equal place!”


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