Lawyer and activist Maurice Tomlinson is the Co-ordinator of Anglicans for Decriminalization and is a parishioner at St. Jude’s Oakville. The Niagara Anglican interviewed Maurice to hear more about AfD and its work.
Niagara Anglican: What is Anglicans for Decriminalization?
Maurice: Anglicans for Decriminalization (AfD) is a group of Anglicans from across the Global Anglican Communion (GAC) which supports the decriminalization of private, consensual, adult same-gender intimacy.
NA: Why and how did it come into existence?
Maurice: AfD was formed after the Primates of the GAC issued the first-ever unequivocal call for decriminalization on January 15, 2016.
However, this revolutionary message was overshadowed by other events in the Communion, such as debates about same-gender marriages and the ordination of gay clergy/bishops.
Members of AfD, therefore, hope to first remind our more than 80 million GAC members that the lives of same-gender loving people across the world continue to be destroyed by British colonially imposed anti-sodomy laws, which initially reflected the teachings of the Church of England. Armed with this information we expect that right-thinking Anglicans will petition governments to repeal these laws.
NA: Briefly describe what is happening around the world.
Maurice: In 77 countries across the world there are laws that criminalize same-gender intimacy, even in the privacy of the bedroom. In 11 countries the penalty is death, while in others, it’s imprisonment (in some cases for life).
In my country of Jamaica, although the punishment is “only” 10 years in prison at hard labour, the law was recently updated in 2011 to require all persons convicted under the anti-sodomy law to also be registered as a sex offender. This law and the homophobia that it supports have been recognized by UNAIDS and other agencies as a major reason why Jamaica has the highest HIV prevalence rate among men who have sex with men (MSM) in the western hemisphere, if not the world (33%).
NA: What happened a year ago when the Anglican Primates met?
Maurice: After a very contentious meeting at Lambeth last January, where consequences were issued to the Episcopal Church for celebrating same-sex marriage, the Primates for the first time made the unequivocal declaration that criminalizing same-gender intimacy was wrong.
NA: What has been your own involvement and how have others reacted?
Maurice: I am the coordinator of AfD, so I handle the group’s administrative matters.
More importantly, I have been contacting Anglican bishops, clergy and laity from across the GAC to inform them about AfD, requesting that they support the petition calling on governments to repeal the anti-gay laws, and meeting with leaders of GAC to ask them to publicly and at every available opportunity support decriminalization.
Our voice of reason can make a significant difference in the cause of decriminalization.
We have had overwhelmingly positive response from all across the Communion, including support from the bishops of Kingston in Jamaica, Guyana, Accra in Ghana, the Upper Shire in Malawi, the Primate of Scotland and the Archbishop of York. Our own bishop Michael and many Canadian bishops and clergy have endorsed our petition. Even some Canadian bishops and clergy, who are still opposed to the recent decision by our General Synod on marriage equality, have supported decriminalization. Clearly, decriminalization is one thing that the vast majority of the GAC can agree on.
NA: What can our readers do or where can they get more information?
Maurice: Readers can read, sign and share the online petition to be presented to governments around the world that have anti-gay laws.
Interested persons can also contact us at AnglicansForDecriminalization @outlook.com
Upon request, we can visit parishes and explain to congregants why this life-saving work is so important.
Finally, readers can donate to AfD so that we can attend scheduled meetings at the Anglican Communion Office and increase our outreach to more provinces and governments, especially those with anti-gay laws. St. Matthias Bellwoods in Toronto will issue tax receipts for any cash or cheque donations towards AfD.
NA: Thank you and blessings on AfD work and mission.