The U.S. Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica, not only lowered the U.S. flag to half staff but also raised a gay pride flag after a shooting at an Orlando, Fla., nightclub left 49 victims dead. Jamaican Attorney General Malahoo Forte took exception to the rainbow flag, saying it was disrespectful of the country's anti-gay sex law. Photo courtesy U.S. Embassy in Jamaica
KINGSTON, Jamaica, June 15 (UPI) -- Jamaica's attorney general called the U.S. embassy's flying of the rainbow flag following the shootings in Orlando, Fla., disrespectful of Jamaican law.
The rainbow flag, symbolic of the LGBT community, was flown at U.S. missions around the world after a gunman killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando on Sunday. The pride flag was raised at the embassy in Kingston, though Jamaica law criminalizes gay sex but not homosexuality. Rights activists have noted a strong anti-gay culture in the country.
A social media comment by Jamaican Attorney General Malahoo Forte, since deleted, read "I strongly condemn #OrlandoNightClubShooting but find it disrespectful of Jamaica's laws to have #RainbowFlag flown here. #MyPersonalView." The U.S. embassy replied: "We're listening. Explain the legal reasoning? It was an attack of terror !!and!! hate, targeting the LGBT community."
Forte's comments were condemned on social media, where she was accused of bigotry. Two Christian groups in Jamaica, the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship and the Coalition for a Healthy Society, decried the shooting but defended her opinion.
Embassies are considered foreign outposts, and the U.S. embassy in Kingston is technically on U.S. soil, but a statement from the Fellowship's president, Helene Corey-Nicholson, said the flying of the rainbow flag was "provocative, insensitive" and supportive of a "gay agenda."
"Notwithstanding the fact that the embassy is considered American territory in international law, the LCF asks U.S. Ambassador Luis G. Moreno to immediately take down the flag and, in so doing, eliminate potential misunderstanding and barriers to the natural outpouring of sympathy and support for the United States and those who have suffered."
Prime Minister Andrew Holness sent a message of condolence to the embassy after the shootings in Orlando, saying, "The bullet of terrorism does not discriminate, it does not know gender, class or sexual orientation. We all grieve the 49 lives lost."
Joshua Polacheck, the embassy's councilor for public affairs, later noted an outpouring of sympathy from Jamaican citizens, adding, "We are aware of the social media posts, but the fact the Jamaican prime minister himself sent a letter to Ambassador Moreno shows that for the most part, Jamaica understands that the attack was against humanity, irrespective of sexual orientation or religious beliefs. Your prime minister is the highest government official and so we have taken his words as the word for all Jamaica. We are mourning an attack on victims, who are firstly Americans; they were targeted for being LGBT."