Pro-Gay Stance Could Sink Jamaican PM Contender Portia Simpson-Miller’s Chances

During a televised election debate in Jamaica, both Prime Minister Andrew Holness and opposition leader Portia Simpson-Miller of the People’s National Party were asked if they’d ever appoint an openly gay cabinet member, something the previous prime minister said he’d never do.

According to journalist Paul Canning, Holness gave a vague non-answer, saying that Jamaica supports civil rights but that difficult issues are difficult to discuss and that as prime minister he has to take everyone’s feelings into account.

Ah, yes. Of course.

Simpson-Miller, on the other hand, spoke against sexual orientation discrimination, promised to review the country’s gay anal sex ban and said that she’d be okay with appointing a gay cabinet member.

But even though Jamaica recently signed a UN resolution against anti-gay murder, Simpson-Miller’s stance is not her party’s official position on LGBT rights. And while Jamaican LGBT organization JFLAG commended her, Gay Jamaican Watch worries that the position “may very well backfire on her given the political sensitivities involved.”

Indeed, the PNP’s poll numbers suggest that they’ll most likely lose the next election. But Simpson-Miller’s courageous stand  outlines a few steps on what future leaders might do to mitigate the problem of homophobia in Jamaica.