In a country where same-sex marriage is already outlawed by President Goodluck Jonathan’s 2014 same-sex marriage prohibition act, Benue State House of Assembly doubles down on the punishments for LGBT persons by mirroring the prohibition act with a same-sex prohibition law. The lawmakers on Wednesday passed a bill to prohibit same-sex marriage and the announcement was made by the speaker of the House, Terkimbi Ikyange.
He said the lawmakers resolved to outlaw any marriage contract or civil union entered into between persons of same-sex in the state. The bill known as Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Law, 2018 was passed after an alleged clause by clause consideration by the lawmakers. According to the bill, “a marriage contract or civil union entered into between persons of same-sex shall not be solemnised in a Church, Mosque or any other place of worship in Benue“. This clearly just says same-sex persons can’t get married in a place of worship and even though a religion-less marriage is still frowned up, this law fails to criminalize any other marriage that doesn’t take place in a place of worship.
The bill also prohibited the registration or recognition of gay clubs, societies and organisations, their sustenance, procession and meeting as well as public show of same-sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly. Like the same-sex marriage prohibition act 2014, the law doesn’t outlaw being gay itself but focuses on the associations,organisations and public expressions and displays of LGBT identity. The law sheepishly criminalizes indirect same-sex amorous relationships and this clearly means that even if you are not gay but display affection or feelings that appear to be gay’ish, you will equally face the same penalty.
It is also stipulated that any person who entered into a same-sex marriage contract or civil union commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of 14 years imprisonment. This is particularly tricky because there is clearly no government body or institution that can issue a marriage contract or civil union certificate for same-sex couples but the law addresses persons who own them. It might be interpreted as a punishment for people with foreign marriage certificates and suggests that they face a conviction of 14 years imprisonment.
In a bid to offer an explanation, the Speaker said same-sex union was alien to the culture and tradition of the State and has to be prohibited. Unfortunately this has done nothing but reiterate Nigeria’s homophobia and foolishly addresses same-sex marriage as the single thing that defines gay people whereas the lawmakers blindly fail to address the mob justice, suicides and rape and violence brought about perceived gay persons in Benue. Like its senior brother, the same-sex marriage prohibition law will do nothing but paint an image of falsehood on LGBT persons and give violence a back story when all that was needed was for the lawmakers to educate themselves on LGBT issues and how it affects the state-wide community.