The government of Barbados announced its intention to recognize same-sex civil unions yesterday. According to Nation News, Governor General Dame Sandra Mason made the announcement in the annual address given at the opening of Parliament.
“Barbados has always been in the vanguard of pioneering social justice, the protection of civil rights and the battle to ensure dignity to the poor, marginalized, vulnerable and dispossessed,” Mason said in what is known as the Throne Speech, going on to declare the government “is prepared to recognize a form of civil unions for couples of the same gender so as to ensure that no human being in Barbados will be discriminated against, in exercise of civil rights that ought to be theirs.”
Mason was quick to note the government was not proposing marriage equality, stating instead that issue will be put before the people of Barbados in a later public referendum. However, she pointed out that Barbados exists within a global community and needed to evolve as a society in regards to LGBTQ+ rights if it wished to remain active in trade with the outside world.
“The legal systems of modern societies recognize many different forms of human relationships,” Mason said. “Barbados is now increasingly finding itself on international lists, including within the multilateral system, which identify us as having a poor human rights record.”
Despite the announcements yesterday, same-sex sexual relations are currently illegal in the country with punishment up to life in prison, although the law is rarely if ever enforced, according to Equaldex. This conflict with existing law was raised by one opposition lawmaker who objected to the government’s plans and accused Mason of attempting to “sneak it through the back door,” according to Barbados Today.
“When you have these civil unions of people living together, they don’t just go home, cook, and have breakfast, dinner, watch television and then come back home and do it all over again,” Senator Caswell Franklyn said. “No, they do these things that the law does not allow.”
Prime Minister Mia Mottley had earlier this year announced same-sex couples would be permitted to take part in the Welcome Stamp program, which allowed persons to live and work remotely on the island for 12 months. Mottley is the country’s first female prime minister.