Nigeria: No Going Back on same-sex marriage, Says Senate President

By IndepthAfrica
In Nigeria
Jan 8th, 2013
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THE pressure is both surreptitious and overt. It is all aimed at scuttling at birth a law banning same-sex marriage in the country.

The international community and human rights activists are at the campaign for Nigeria to reconsider any plan to enact the law.

But Senate President David Mark has stirred the anxiety of these activists further as he has maintained that the bill prohibiting same-sex marriage would be passed.

According to a statement issued by the Chief Press Secretary to Mark, Paul Mumeh, in Abuja Monday, the Senate President while addressing Catholic faithful and guests at the civic reception in honour of John Cardinal Olorunfemi Onaiyekan in Abuja said that despite the pressure from some quarters, the law banning same-sex marriage has come to stay.

Mark was quoted by Mumeh to have said: “ We will not compromise on this. I want to invite you all to join the crusade of decency in our society. There are many good values we can copy from other societies but certainly not this one (same-sex marriage).

“We have to prove to the rest of the world, who are advocates of this unnatural way that we Nigerians promote and respect sanity, morality and humanity. Every individual is a product of the union of a man and woman.”

He acknowledged the cordial relationship between the Nigerian state and the church and pledged that the National Assembly would continue to do all within the law to ensure religious freedom and peaceful co-existence in the country.

Mark added that the National Assembly would continue to support religious programmes that have positive impact on Nigerians but was quick to condemn religious intolerance or extremism.

He, therefore, enjoined spiritual leaders to continue to pray for good governance, peace and security in the country

“We are doing our best to ensure protection of life and property,” Mark stressed.

In his remarks, Cardinal Onaiyekan expressed appreciation to Pope Benedict XVI, the government and people of Nigeria for their prayers and support especially since his elevation to the Collage of Cardinals, stressing that he would continue to be a crusader for peace and unity in the nation.

An overwhelming number of religious and socio-cultural groups across Nigeria has been unequivocal in their opposition to same-sex marriage which some foreign countries are openly urging Nigeria to accept.

Such opponents include Christian denominations as well as Muslim groups all of which have voiced their rejection of the pressure from some sections of the international community for Nigeria to change its stance.

Among them is Primate of All Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh who has repeatedly kicked against the idea, saying same-sex marriage is not biblical and therefore unacceptable.

He regretted that right in the church, some people are busy destroying and attacking the message of the scripture, adding: “If you believe wrongly, you will leave wrongly.”

Also United States-based Nigerians are rising in stout defence of the Nigerian Senate bill banning same-sex marriage.

Specifically they are concerned that while President Barack Obama and his government are opposing the same-sex-marriage ban in Nigeria, most states in the United States are yet to recognise same-sex marriage and the U.S. Federal Government itself still has a law, the Defence of Marriage Act, DOMA, passed under the George W. Bush administration which stipulates that marriage is between man and woman.

“When you consider the issue of same-sex marriage in the U.S., it is not as if all the states recognize it even though they may not criminalise it as Nigeria has proposed,” according to Kayode Oladele, a Detroit-based Human Rights Attorney observed.

Oladele who himself has presented arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court added that of the 50 U.S. states only about six recognize same-sex marriage.

He disclosed that a review of the U.S. law books reveal that “there are 50 states in the U.S., a strong federal system, out of which only about six, namely, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, plus Washington, D.C. currently grant same-sex marriage licences.”

Indeed, even in some states like California, where same-sex marriage was recognised in California in the last few years, a later amendment to the state constitution changed all that declaring “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognised in California.”

The Nigerian Senate, had passed the bill last November, stipulating among other things, 14 years imprisonment for same-sex marriage, as well as 10-year imprisonment for any person, who helps in any way to ensure such marriages take place.

The House had unanimously adopted the bill for second reading and subsequently committed it to the Committee of Whole.

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