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George Smith: How Do You Know There Isn't Support If You Don't Put It To A Vote?

FORMER PLP Cabinet minister George Smith is the latest person to raise concerns about the government’s constitutional amendment bills, urging the government to reword the fourth bill dealing with discrimination based on sex and calling for the first bill to be made retroactive.

Mr Smith, who served in the Pindling administration, also said the government cannot abandon its plans for the constitutional vote, as suggested by National Security Minister Dr Bernard Nottage last week.

On Friday, Dr Nottage said the referendum would not go ahead unless there was unanimous support for the November 6 vote.

“How are you going to know if there isn’t support unless it’s put to a vote?” Mr Smith asked, when contacted for comment.

“And ultimately the burden of changing the constitution lies with the people who are the inheritors of these rocks, islands and cays.”

“I think that (the referendum) can’t crash and can’t burn. …the constitution is a living document, it has to grow, and it has to grow with the times.”

While Mr Smith supports the referendum, he said the government must address issues with bill four, which some believe could pave the way for gay marriage.

“When they talk about (eliminating) discrimination on the basis of sex, already it is fixed in the Bahamian mind, this is the first step in permitting union of the same sex,” he said.

The fourth bill seeks to end discrimination based on sex. This involves the insertion of the word “sex” in Article 26 of the Constitution to make it unconstitutional to discriminate based on whether someone is male or female.

The first bill would enable a child born outside the Bahamas to a Bahamian woman to have automatic Bahamian citizenship at birth.

Mr Smith, who was a part of the first constitutional talks in London, England in 1970, has said this bill should be made retroactive.

“I think that the bills have to be very plain, very precise and retroactive and must take effect from the July 10, 1973.

“Other than that all of the women who have been campaigning for these changes will not benefit.”

The second constitutional amendment bill would allow a Bahamian woman who marries a foreign man to secure for him the same access to Bahamian citizenship that a Bahamian man has always enjoyed under the Constitution in relation to his foreign wife.

The third bill seeks to remedy the one area of the Bahamas’ Constitution that discriminates against men based on gender. The bill would give an unwed Bahamian father the same right to pass citizenship to his child that a Bahamian woman has always had under the Constitution in relation to a child born to her out of wedlock.

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