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Jamaica: Appeal Court overturns interim order granted to gay pride group

By Jamaica Gleaner

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(JAMAICA GLEANER) — Stung by defeat after a weeklong legal battle with the St James Municipal Corporation, gay rights lobbyist Maurice Tomlinson has vowed to reapply for permission to host a controversial forum after losing on a “technicality.”

The Court of Appeal on Friday overturned an interim injunction granted by the Supreme Court in favour of the LGBT-rights organisation Montego Bay Pride.

The court, on Thursday, heard arguments to determine whether to reverse Monday’s interim order by Supreme Court judge Justice David Batts, allowing the organisation to rent the Montego Bay Cultural Centre in St James so as to host a forum on same-sex marriage.

It is understood that after booking the cultural centre, which is managed by the Montego Bay Arts Council, a permit has to be sought from the St James Municipal Corporation.

Tomlinson said that he respected the court’s decision and would follow the procedure insisted on by the municipal authorities.

“We hope we will not be prevented this time. All we want to do is have a public forum where everyone is free to air their views. Why is this controversial?” he said in a statement on Friday.

Tomlinson has maintained that on the previous occasions when Montego Bay Pride staged events at the public facility, it had never needed to apply for any permits.

“The court’s decision to lift the injunction was based on a technicality. Amazingly, the municipal corporation has now argued that they never made a decision to revoke our access and that we did not apply using the ‘proper procedure’ – even though we have staged events there in the past three years using the same process,” he said.

PERMITS WEREN’T SOUGHT

Making submissions at the Court of Appeal in downtown Kingston via video link, attorney-at-law Georgia Gibson-Henlin, who is representing Montego Bay Mayor Homer Davis, and the corporation, said that the authorities did not withdraw permission from the gay-rights group from having a forum on same-sex marriage at the western city’s cultural centre.

She said that no decision could have been made in this regard as the permits required to host the event had not been sought.

However, attorney-at-law Nastassia Robinson, who is representing Tomlinson, said that requiring licences from the corporation was not ordinary, citing that the LGBT rights group has had events there in the past.

In handing down the ruling on Friday, Justice Patrick Brooks, one of three Court of Appeal judges who presided over the matter, said Batts erred in his finding of facts.

Consequently, Brooks said the decision by Batts must be set aside, further stating that a mandatory injunction could not be granted under the circumstances because the evidence relating to the decision of the municipal corporation “was, at best, vague.”

The other judges on the panel were Justices Nicole Simmons and Paulette Williams.

In an article on September 13, The Gleaner reported that during a meeting of the St James Municipal Corporation, Davis said that he would be revoking permission for the group to use the facility, stating that the move was necessary to preserve the “sacredness” of the space.

Tomlinson said that he was then informed by a member of the arts council that after discussions with the mayor, the event could no longer be held there.

The decision by the municipal corporation is now the subject of a judicial review, following an application filed by Tomlinson.

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