We Are Not Criminals

Back in 2009 I wrote with joy about how the Delhi High Court struck down the colonial-era sodomy law, order known as Section 377.  It was a sweeping victory to India’s LGBTQ community.

Section 377, cialis which dates back to the 1860’s when Britain ruled over South Asia, states that “whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal” can be punished by up to 10 years behind bars.

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Wednesday, India’s Supreme Court set aside that ruling, making that country the 84th nation to sanction the criminalization of homosexuality. It is the newest addition to the other countries I will never go to out of my personal protest for their discrimination and criminalization of my brothers and sisters. On the local level, I do not need to buy their imported products, and the patriot in me still looks for U. S products, but I digress.

The Supreme Court believed that the Delhi High Court had relied too heavily on foreign precedents in asserting protections for LGBT equality and rejected the notion that the sodomy law criminalizes gay identity.  “Section 377 … does not criminalize a particular people or identity or orientation. It merely identifies certain acts which if committed would constitute an offense,” the ruling stated.

This however is exactly what they have done…once again criminalized LGBTQ peoples in India.

A Muslim leader, S.Q.R. Ilyas, a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, which filed a petition in support of the reversal, praised the ruling.

“These relationships are unethical as well as unnatural,” he said. “They create problems in society, both moral and social. This is a sin as far as Islam is concerned.”

Reports site that the immediate reaction from LGBTQ rights activists “was to lay the blame at the door of Islamic, Christian and Hindu religious associations accusing them of having lobbied to reintroduce the norm.”

But not every religious leader was supportive of the Supreme Court ruling.

“As Christians, we express our full respect for homosexuals. The Catholic Church is opposed to the legalization of gay marriage, but teaches that homosexuals have the same dignity of every human being and condemns all forms of unjust discrimination, harassment or abuse,” said Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Mumbai, President of the Episcopal Conference of India and a member of the eight-strong Council that advises the Pope on Curia reform. The Cardinal stressed that, ” the Catholic Church has never been opposed to the decriminalization of homosexuality, because we have never considered gay people criminals,” AsiaNews reports.

The Cardinal and I continue to disagree on issue of same-sex marriage but together we agree that the LGBTQ population ARE NOT criminals.

Cardinal Gracias stance is a proud moment in regards to the Church’s dark history with our community.  Many wounds are still deeply felt and our relationship with the Church is beyond stained.   Hurt, condemnation, and discrimination have been our history with the church, persecution at its worst.

Is Cardinal Gracias, who has the personal confidence of Pope Francis, a promise of a new relationship with the Catholic Church?  Is this what we can expect from brave leaders?  Standing firm against the opposition and demanding respect for our community?

How this translates here in the United States we will have to wait and see.  But if Cardinal Gracias was following the example of Francis, let us hope and pray that other cardinals, archbishops, bishops and clergy follow this same example of openness to our community.

If so, when Pope Francis comes to the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in 2015, do we greet him as a community, waving our rainbow flags?  I think if he is willing to openly embrace us then we should him.

As for India, well shame on their Supreme Court for supporting discrimination against a people!  To my brothers and sisters in India I will pray for you and your fight.  For truly our battle is global.

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