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–Jamaica’s Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte, in a since-deleted tweet, expressing her disapproval of the U.S. embassy in Kingston flying a Pride flag in the wake of the Orlando shootings, the BBC reports.
The embassy joined others around the world in flying the rainbow flag, and quickly responded to the attorney general’s statement.
@mmalahooforte we’re listening. Explain the legal reasoning? It was an attack of terror !!and!! hate, targeting the LGBT community.
— US Embassy Jamaica (@USEmbassyJA) 14 June 2016
Earlier, the embassy had tweeted a photo of their flags flying at half-mast.
Our flag at half-mast in memory; we fly the rainbow flag in solidarity. Thx u to all Jamaicans sending condolences. pic.twitter.com/9JJmv3O8mR
— US Embassy Jamaica (@USEmbassyJA) 13 June 2016
Malahoo Forte told the Jamaica Observer that her message had been “misconstrued.”
“The horrible act of terror which resulted in so many deaths can never be condoned. I condemn it unreservedly,” she said. “Personally, I respect and celebrate our differences as people and see them as reflective of our humanity. Professionally, I’m sworn to uphold and defend the constitution and laws of Jamaica.”
But her initial remarks received strong criticism from other Jamaican officials.
“Whatever one may think in terms of the gay community, the fact is that it was insensitive to speak the way she did,” Queen’s Counsel and People’s National Party Senator KD Knight said. “The US Government will be surprised that the attorney general of Jamaica does not know that the land on which the embassy is built or located is regarded as a part of US soil. They are free to do as they wish there.”
“The attorney general is well within her rights to object to any symbol or instrument, including the Holy Bible, she finds offensive to her conscience,” political commentator Christopher Burns told the Observer. He suggested that her comments were “borne perhaps out of her seeming latent intolerance for those the rainbow flag represents.”
Jamaica is notoriously hostile towards LGBT people, with the U.S. State Department noting in 2012 that “homophobia was widespread in the country.” Sex between two men is punishable with up to ten years in prison, while there are no legal protections for LGBT people. Sex between two women, however, is legal.
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