LGBTQ+ Bill: Path cleared for passage

LGBTQ+ Bill: Path cleared for passage

The path is now clear for the passage of the Human Sexual Rights and Family Values Bill, 2021, as all 16 proposed amendments that compelled Parliament to retake the bill through another second stage consideration have been withdrawn.

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The withdrawal came after the House had unanimously voted on and defeated outright the first two proposed amendments that will substitute incarceration of those engaged in and promoted homosexuality with non-custodial sentence.

The House also rejected six other proposed amendments to introduce a mandatory counselling programme in the bill for those who will be convicted of engaging and promoting homosexuality.

The programme would have involved engaging professional counsellors, a move that would have cost implications for the state.

But being mindful of the constitutional provision that bars the introduction of any private members’ bill that attracts cost to the state, especially the engagement of professional counsellors, the members also rejected those amendments.

The Speaker, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, subsequently instructed the sponsor of the proposed clauses, Alexander Afenyo-Markin, to withdraw them, to which he heeded.

Reaction

Mr Afenyo-Markin said that in principle, he was with the sponsors on the objectives of the bill.

He, however, said he intended to engage or winnow with the sponsors for them to build some consensus on the amendments he proposed, especially the minor parts of the bill.

“Mr Speaker, I need to emphasise that no attempt, whatsoever, is being made by me to stall this all-important bill.

“However, I want us to pass the bill not as a divided House, but as a House that should build a consensus on this critical bill,” he said.

Mr Afenyo-Markin told the House that he had written a letter in which he proposed that the two flag bearers of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) for the 2024 election be engaged by the sponsors and himself.

Actions speak louder

However, the Speaker, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, ruled him out of order, saying, “Honourable member, you have taken advantage of my grace by abusing the practice and procedures of this House.”

“Please take note that actions speak louder than words; it is not just a matter of getting up and saying that I am not opposed to the bill and I am in complete support of the bill, meanwhile your actions are speaking differently from the words you are using.

“Please, this House must continue to consider and do what it is authorised to do; after that anybody may decide on what to do. I can no longer extend this grace for a delay in the processing of this bill,” he said.

And when Mr Afenyo-Markin moved a motion on consideration of clause Six, the Speaker told him that his proposed amendments in clause Six to 12 were all in the same “words, import and spirit” and asked the House to take a position on them before proceeding.

And when the House voted against clause Six outrightly, Mr Bagbin said the proposed amendment was “negated since the House maintained the same position in respect of the proposed amendments to clause Six up to 16, and this applies to all those proposed amendments, I direct that the proposed amendment herein be withdrawn”.

Withdrawal

Obliging, Mr Afenyo-Markin said: “I yield in obedience, but Mr Speaker, this is your directive and it is not a directive of the House.”

The Effutu MP, however, said while he had been defeated by a voice vote, the Speaker must exercise his discretion in his favour for a secret ballot since there was no express provision to enable him to challenge the Speaker’s ruling for secret ballot.

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