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Liberia: Same Sex Marriage Debate - Can't Liberia Be Definitive?

in LIBERIA, 21/11/2012

The debate concerning gay practice or advocacy for same sex marriage, has loomed in Liberia for the past two years, involving ordinary citizens, leaders of both Muslim and Christian communities as well as the Executive and Legislature, but without legitimization of any national stance.

After Western countries announced they accept gay activities and same sex-marriage as integral part of human rights and that they would provide additional assistance to countries, including those in Africa willing to support and promote these rights, a self-proclaimed gay and lesbian rights activist here, Mr. Archie Ponpon, mobilized rallies at the University of Liberia campus and street corners to sell his stance.

Despite being condemned by adolescent colleagues, Archie Ponpon still insists anti-gay lobbyists should refrain from imposing their will on other people, though he imposes his on others.

As the debate ensued with sporadic momentum, Bong County Senior Senator Jewel-Howard Taylor sponsored the Anti-gay Bill that was passed 19 July 2012 at the Senate prohibiting same-sex marriage and making it criminal in Liberia.

This bill meant to strengthen the law against homosexuality is still awaiting concurrence of the lower chamber of the bicameral legislature before it can be forwarded for Executive action.

But the Senate's chair on Judiciary, Cllr. Joseph Nagbe, says the anti-gay bill makes gay practice a second degree felony under Liberian laws, meaning that it has no much teeth to bite as its violators can pay only small fines or undergo minimal imprisonment.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's assertion earlier this year of being neither against nor in favor of same-sex marriage concerned the first branch of government to seek her clear-cut stance on the issue.

"The President needs to come out with a clear statement to the Liberian people on the issue of same sex marriage; she has to take a definite position on the matter," Rep. Henry B. Fahnbulleh (UP) once told reporters.

However, after the US State Department took exception to President Sirleaf's ambivalence on gay rights, she reconsidered, saying her government would "guarantee people's civil liberties."

But the debate appears to be taking a new momentum when a mammoth crowd comprising Muslims and Christians rallied Saturday in Monrovia seeking one million signatures on a resolution to pressure government to ban lesbianism and same-sex marriage in the country.

The head of the Citizens' Movement Campaign, Mr Jim Tornonlah told journalists at the official launch Saturday they have already collected over 25,000 signatures

Rev. Rudolph Marsh, represented the Liberia Council of Churches, and blasted gay advocates as being influenced by foreign powers.

"There are good things in America that we can copy," he said, adding: "we don't have to copy the bad ones; let's leave the bad ones with Americans."

Rev. Marsh urged Liberian Christians and Muslims to remain united "and stand together and tell the world that Liberia is a place of civilized people and will not allow same-sex marriage."

A spokesman of the Muslims, Sheikh Omaru Kamara, praised Christians and Muslims for their "unity of purpose in the campaign against homosexuality."

Presentation of the one-million-signature resolution will firmly place the ball in the court of the first and second branches of government to put this debate behind us so as to make room for bread and butter issues - seeking solutions to youth under employment and unemployment.

It is noteworthy mentioning that the one-million-signature resolution is being prepared in Liberia when Nigerian Anglicans are up in arms and threatening to break away from the communion in case the new Archbishop of Canterbury advocates same sex marriage in the church.

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