Before I start this, let me fully disclose that I am first of all, a Christian. Then a Catholic. So even though I’ve put quite an effort into sounding objective about this, some might read prejudice in my words. Oh well. Why am I writing this? Human history is at a fragile point where major decisions are being taken on issues that define the society we’re going to pass on to our children, and their children. I think it’s important that we pass onto our children values that affirm their humanity and do not deform their consciences. And so if there is a debate going on, I owe it to posterity to make my voice heard.
To my knowledge, I do not have gay friends. Or family. Or co-workers. Or neighbours. To. My. Knowledge. It’s important that I emphasize this: To My Knowledge. Because it brings up an issue I’d like to address. Do I have a right/duty/obligation to know the orientation of the people around me? No. I don’t. If they choose to share this information, fine. If not, I really can’t be bothered.
That said, I’d like to address the bill being read at the National Assembly which seeks to prohibit same-sex marriages. A number of social media activists have denounced it. Some of their points are ludicrous, sha. We do not take our cues from America. That homosexuals may marry in America does not mean they MUST marry in Nigeria. But there are some valid points: freedom of association, for one and freedom from persecution. I know nothing about this bill save what I read in the Daily Times newspaper. And what I gather is that it seeks to punish married gay couples with 3 years imprisonment, and witnesses to gay unions with 5 years imprisonment.
Married gay couples. Married. Who married them? Does anyone, minister, cleric or magistrate, marry gay couples in Nigeria at the moment? I’d really appreciate an answer.
Let’s set up a hypothetical situation here. Bisi and Joke are homosexual. They meet, like each other and initiate a sexual relationship. (I assume that they aren’t waiting till marriage to consummate. Would that even be possible?) They “go steady” for awhile. And then decide to rent a flat in town, move in together, buy furniture together, the works.
There is absolutely nothing stopping them from doing this. Is there? Let’s take this further. They decide that Joke should change her last name to Bisi’s. Joke goes to court, swears an affidavit and then puts an ad in the papers. They’re now both Joke and Bisi Lagbaja. Perhaps, they’ll throw a house-warming party, and invite their friends. Maybe, they’ll decide to make a mutual commitment of fidelity to each other in front of their guests. They go to a lawyer and will all of their property to each other. They live in their flat together and grow old in each other’s arms. The End.
All of this is quite possible in Nigeria at the moment. Right? So it begs the questions: Why do gay couples wish to be joined in matrimony? What will change about their relationship if they get married? What difference does a marriage license, a piece of paper, make to either of them?
I believe in fairness, I believe in understanding the other person. And because I’m a Christian, I believe in not judging others, in loving the sinner but hating the sin. I believe homosexuality is a sin, the same way I believe lying, adultery and fornication are sins. It would infringe on my right to freedom of conscience if anyone tried to force me to say/do otherwise. But I will not be a part of witch-hunting, of persecution, of hatred, or of bigotry. I think the full details of the bill should be given to the public so we can begin to understand what exactly is going on, if the government is within its jurisdiction to impose these restrictions and where we should draw the line. God help us all.