The Haitian Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that would ban same-sex marriages and punish those who enter into them.
Le Nouvelliste, a Haitian newspaper, reported senators approved the measure that Sen. Carl Murat Cantave introduced by a 14-1 vote margin. La Nouvelliste also reported one senator abstained.
Agence France-Presse reported “the parties, co-parties and accomplices” of a same-sex marriage would face up to three years in prison and a fine of 500,000 Haitian gourdes or roughly $7,920. The measure would also ban what the news agency described as “public demonstration of support” for homosexuality.
Le Nouvelliste reported Cantave said the bill is necessary to “protect young people and the family from depravation.”
“It is a gain for our culture,” he said. “It is a gain for our country.”
Haitian LGBT rights advocates have criticized the measure.
Reginald Dupont, executive director of Fondation SEROvie, an HIV/AIDS service organization that is based in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, told the Washington Blade on Thursday his country’s Senate has been “taken hostage by religious fundamentalists.”
Dupont noted senators earlier this year passed an anti-defamation bill that he described as “a hindrance to freedom of the press.” He also pointed out same-sex marriage has never been legal in Haiti.
“They have claimed a law against marriage for all, which has never been the case in Haiti, just to stir up violence and provoke a blood bath in Haiti,” said Dupont.
Agence France-Presse reported the bill will likely pass in the Haitian Chamber of Deputies, which is the lower house of the country’s National Assembly. President Jovenel Moise is expected to sign it into law.
Country ‘risks isolating itself’ if bill becomes law
Haiti, which borders the Dominican Republic on the island of Hispaniola, is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
The country decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations in 1986, but anti-LGBT attitudes continue to persist.
A mob attacked a British man and his partner in 2013 as they celebrated their engagement in Port-au-Prince. Organizers of an LGBT festival that was scheduled to take place in the Haitian capital last September cancelled it amid fears of violence and a government official’s decision to ban it.
Fondation SEROvie is among the organizations that contributed to relief efforts in the city of Jérémie on Haiti’s Tiburon Peninsula that Hurricane Matthew devastated last October. More than a dozen Haitian LGBT rights activists attended a conference in the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo earlier this year the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute co-organized with two other advocacy groups from the Dominican Republic and Colombia.
“Haiti, the poorest country in the hemisphere, risks isolating itself by the action of certain leaders and the passivity of the others,” Dupont told the Blade.