Thousands rallied in Kingston, Jamaica, on Sunday in a massive showing of support for preserving the nation's sodomy law, which prohibits same-sex intercourse, and standing against what religious leaders have deemed as the "homosexual agenda."
The rally was organized by Jamaica CAUSE (Churches Action Uniting Society for Emancipation), a coalition of religious groups, and took place at one of the city's busiest intersections, Half-Way-Tree, according to local paper, the Jamaica Observer, which estimated about 25,000 attended the event.
Participants and church leaders called on Jamaicans to stand for "strong and healthy families" and "to resist the homosexual agenda" by demanding to uphold the sodomy law, or locally referred to as the "buggery law," among other things, according to the report.
"Our emancipation means standing up for strong families, our emancipation means standing against the homosexuality agenda, emancipation for us means standing up against the repealing of the buggery law," Alvin Bailey, chairman of the rally, told the crowd after a prayer session.
Maurice Tomlinson, who advocates on behalf of LGBT Jamaicans, said the scale and magnitude of the rally alone is "very frightening." Rally organizers promoted the event on the radio and in print advertising and even set up loud speakers in some neighborhoods, he said, when reached by phone Monday.
"They really poured a lot of money into this, which to me is of great concern," Tomlinson said. "It means that they are going after politicians and policy makers and etcetera to make sure the rights of LGBT people are not recognized."
The rally and the message it sends to opponents of the LGBT community couldn't have come at a worse time, as violence against LGBT people in Jamaica spikes during summer months — such as mob attacks targeting LGBT people, according to Tomlinson.
"That's a significant number of people to come to a rally, considering the population and yet we are already under siege," he said. "This is the signal that we dare not pop our heads up. People I know are trying to lay low and avoid repercussions."
The Sunday rally comes as the government and Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller have begun to work on legislation that could repeal the sodomy law, but Tomlinson is not so optimistic about potential changes, saying, "I strongly suspect that this action and fear mongering will ensure that a prevision dealing with sodomy is not touched even in this review."
At the end of the rally, organizers collected signatures for a petition urging Simpson-Miller to uphold the buggery law.
"The situation was never ideal of us, but these actions remind us how perilous the situation is because you never know when the situation might erupt," Tomlinson said.