Our nation has been increasingly tolerant of gay rights. Stirred by the words of Pope Francis, or by Supreme Court decisions, one state after another has accepted the previously unthinkable phenomenon of same sex marriage, of the right of gays to adopt children, of their legally-protected claim to be free of bias in employment. And when other states have passed legislation to discriminate against gays (as Mississippi and North Carolina have recently done), they have been met with fierce boycotts and other forms of opposition.
Unfortunately, a quite different situation prevails in numerous Caribbean nations, of which Jamaica is a primary offender. That colorful place of superb beaches, reggae music and jerk chicken, is one of nine Caribbean islands to retain laws that make homosexual conduct illegal and a crime. And though few such laws are any more enforced (especially in modern times), they create an atmosphere that has led to numerous bodily attacks against gays by local gangs and hyper-violent individuals.
It is true that when confronted with these undoubted acts of violence, some gays attempt to explain away the problem by claiming that such acts are directed only at Jamaican citizens and not visiting tourists. They patiently argue that gay couples locating themselves in touristic Ocho Rios, Jamaica, are acceptably safe, as contrasted with those venturing into non-touristic Kingston, Jamaica. The only caution for the latter, according to optimistic gays, is the need to refrain from open acts of affection.
I’m not sure I agree. And when asked to offer advice, I suggest that gay travelers will be far more free of discourtesy and worse in such gay-friendly places as the U.S. Virgin Islands, or Puerto Rico, or the Dominican Republic. Numerous experienced counselors will also claim that gay tourists will, generally speaking, be better off in Spanish-speaking as opposed to English-speaking islands.
The same counselors, generally speaking, are critical of such allegedly homophobic island nations as Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, the Cayman Islands, and more. They approve of Curacao, but not of Aruba and Bonaire.
The power of the market—the many dollars possessed by gay travelers—may eventually bring about a change in attitudes in such places as Jamaica and elsewhere. When tourist-seeking industries like that of Barbados learn of the business they are losing to St. Thomas and St. Croix, they may begin to act courteously and properly to homosexual couples.
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