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A Caribbean regional court struck down a colonial-era law that prohibited gay sex in St. Kitts and Nevis, the latest ruling against such legislation that continues to exist in the region, the Associated Press reported.
The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court said the 1873 law was unconstitutional, noting that it violated “the claimants’ right to determine the way they, as individuals, choose to express their sexuality in private with another consenting adult.”
The case began after the nonprofit St. Kitts and Nevis Alliance for Equality and a local gay man sued the country’s attorney general, saying that the right to liberty entitles people to choose their intimate partner and have consensual sex with whomever and however they want.
The twin islands’ government, however, countered that freedom of expression did not apply to sexual orientation and that moral standards are the foundation of St. Kitts and Nevis.
The court dismissed those arguments, saying that “public morality is not synonymous with religious dogma or public opinion.”
Although the law was rarely invoked, it was amended in 2012 to raise the maximum penalty for indecent assault against men from four to 10 years, including the possibility of hard labor.
LGBTQ activists applauded the recent verdict, adding that homosexual people on the twin-island nation have tended to forego medical care for fear of being fired, beaten, prosecuted, or vilified by healthcare providers and the government.
Previously, courts in Belize, Trinidad and Tobago, and Antigua and Barbuda ruled that such laws were unconstitutional. Other cases are pending in Barbados and St. Lucia.