America Has Kris Perry + Sandy Stier to Fight for Gay Marriage. Does Malawi Have Steven Monjeza + Tiwonge Chimbalanga?
Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, were sought out by Chad Griffin, and volunteered to become the plaintiffs in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the U.S. Supreme-court destined case to decide gay marriage in the United States. Could the same be said for Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, the two Malawian men who were arrested after their engagement ceremony, and whose lawyers appear intent on turning his clients into the cause célèbre of gay marriage in Malawi?
Monjeza and Chimbalanga have arguably faced a worse fate than any gay American looking to wed a loved one. These two were arrested, imprisoned, and refused bail for merely celebrating their engagement. So outrageous are the laws there, their defense counsel want the courts to look not only at their own clients, but the entire class of laws criminalizing homosexuality. Reports Reuters from yesterday’s courtroom action:
The couple’s defence team argued in court Monday that their arrest on the basis of their perceived sexual orientation “amounts to discrimination, a violation of their rights to freedom of expression, conscience and expression as enshrined in our republican constitution.”
“Our prayer is for a constitutional review of the laws in the penal code that criminalise homosexuality in the country and are inconsistent with the constitution,” lawyer Noel Supedi told a packed court.
Chief resident magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwausiwa, presiding over a case that has generated widespread public debate in the country, agreed with the plea for a constitutional review but ruled the case could be moved to the constitutional court only with the consent of the chief justice.
“I will still continue hearing the case until such a time when the chief justice makes a determination that the case be transferred to the constitutional court,” he said.
Noel Supedi’s clients aren’t the only ones who hope he becomes Malawi’s Ted Olson.