Bahamas rejects equal rights referendum

 

Bahamas rejects equal rights referendum

Author: 

George Conger

The Bahamian people have voted down church and government backed amendments to the country’s constitution calling for greater gender equality. However opponents charged the anti-discrimination amendments would have opened the door to same-sex marriage in the West Indian nation. On 7 June 2016 Bahamians went to the polls to vote on four amendments endorsed by Prime Minister Perry Christie and the ruling People’s Liberal Party (PLP).  Approved by parliament in March the amendments were endorsed by a plethora of international organizations including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, UNICEF, UN Women, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Pan American Health Organization and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The proposed amendments would allow children born abroad to obtain Bahamian citizenship from either their Bahamian father or mother, in circumstances where the other parent is not Bahamian; to permit a Bahamian woman who marries a non-Bahamian man to secure for him the same right to apply for citizenship given to a woman who marries a Bahamian man;  to allow illegitimate children of a Bahamian father born to a foreign woman the right of citizenship, and to amend Article 26 of the Constitution, making it unconstitutional for Parliament to pass any laws that discriminate based on sex. Opponents claimed the amendments were a stalking horse for same-sex marriage, a charge denied by the prime minister. Anglican leaders had lent their support to the yes campaign. The former Archbishop of the Church of the Province of the West Indies and Bishop of The Bahamas, the Most Rev. Drexel Gomez, said some church leaders had misconstrued the intent of the amendments. “Unfortunately, some well-intentioned pastors have utilized the appearance of the word ‘sex’ in the text of Article Four to make an unwarranted and misleading insertion into the publicly released narrative thereby creating much confusion in the public domain,” Archbishop Gomez told the Bahamas Journal. “These church leaders allege, without offering any factual corroboration that the use of the word ‘sex’ in amendment four can provide a legal ‘back door’ for the authorization of same-sex marriage in The Bahamas, despite the fact that marriage does not, on any logical reading, form part of the rationale spelt out so clearly in the four amendments.” The constitution forbad same-sex marriage, the archbishop said, and could not be overturned obliquely, as opponents alleged. He had also urged Bahamians not to vote against the amendments out of  “fear of foreigners” Following the defeat of the government backed amendment a spokesman for opposition Free National Movement (FNM) has called on Prime Minister Perry Christie to step down or face the prospect of a no-confidence vote in his administration in parliament.

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