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11 November 2022

‘We are all equal in the eyes of God and the law’

Monday 17 April 2023 | Written by Matthew Littlewood | Published in Local, National

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‘We are all equal in the  eyes of God and the law’
Democratic Party Opposition Leader Tina Browne in Parliament. 22052726 Photo: Caleb Fotheringham/ 22052726

Of all amendments to Cook Islands laws, Friday’s passing of changes by Parliament to ‘what was a seriously outdated’ Crimes Act, is one of the best and most civilised advances made in recent times to existing legislation, says a delighted Democratic Party Opposition Leader.

Tina Browne, who has long supported recognition and acceptance of equal rights of the LGBTQ+ community here, says decriminalising consenting sexual relations between adults of the same gender “was a simple Parliamentary action that took far too long, caused considerable pain to many in the community and was divisive.”

In a statement, Browne said: “I’m immensely pleased that 19 of our MPs were supportive and progressive enough in their thinking that we are all equal in the eyes of God and the law, to vote in favour of the Crimes Act amendments.”

“It is my sincere hope that the four MPs who voted against the amending Sections 154 and 155 of the Cook Islands Crimes Act 1969 will one day develop a more humanitarian, compassionate attitude.”

“Frankly speaking, in the past the greater majority of the Opposition favoured decriminalisation and there had been a couple of dissenters who based their position on their religion and the misguided belief decriminalisation will lead to all sorts of evil things. Simply put, I couldn’t convince them otherwise, so left them with their misguided views and just continued fully supporting the changes to our Crimes Act.”

Browne said she recently made a presentation at a Human Rights Conference in Australia in which included the statements that in the Cook Islands, “on one hand we boast about being a Christian nation, and on the other we have parliamentarians who seem to want to criminalise, and punish a sector of our society for engaging in consenting adult sexual activity. The lack of will to correct the wrong is woefully absent and I am not afraid to admit that I am ashamed of that.”

“Where are those Christian principles that we have been taught we should abide by; to be kind and respect all people. Where is the expected and required adherence to the fundamentals of our Cook Islands Constitution where we are all treated equally and fairly before the law?

“I believe that we truly need to become contemporary, rational and mature in our thinking and approach to life and discard insidious laws that hark back to the 1500’s. We cannot on one hand call ourselves God fearing Christians, and yet condemn our sons and daughters for being the people they were born to be.”

Speaking shortly after the historical passing of the amendment, Browne said: “Therefore, I am absolutely thrilled that the amendment has gone through with such a clear majority. I was honored to wear a Pride Cook Islands tee-shirt on Friday’s sitting and to speak expressing my clear, unwavering support for our LGTBQ community.”

“I took that important opportunity to remind MPs that it’s our jobs as parliamentarians to pass good laws and repeal bad ones. The offending sections in the Crimes Act is a very bad law because it completely insulted Article 64 of our Constitution which assures all Cook Islanders of inalienable rights. We MPs had a job to do. We had to do the right thing.

“I believe we the 19 MP’s who voted in support of decriminalisation can hold our heads high that we have acted in the best interest of our LGTBQ community today, of our future generations who will never longer face exclusion and enjoy the same equal rights as we all should.”