By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
FOREIGN Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell says the fierce opposition that the government has received over the proposed fourth amendment bill which seeks to insert the word “sex” into Article 26 of the Constitution exposes the rampant “homophobia” in the country.
He suggested that people should just state outright their positions on homosexuality rather than “polluting” the gender equality discussion.
Mr Mitchell, who was a guest on Star FM’s radio talk show Jeffrey with host Jeff Lloyd, yesterday suggested that much of the backlash over the issue was led by those who were seeking a quick ascent to political power, knowing popular opinion on the issue.
He told The Tribune, before appearing as a guest on the show, that arguments lodged against the proposed fourth amendment over concerns that it would open the door to same sex marriages were “utterly irrelevant and extraneous.”
When asked if he supported gay rights, Mr Mitchell responded that he would not put people in categories because everyone deserved equal rights and privileges. Mr Mitchell admitted that on controversial topics, including gay rights and gender equality, his views make him “a lightening rod” for criticism.
“I don’t think the public would have been excited about this had some of these leaders, in quotes, had not raised the issue,” Mr Mitchell said.
“The interpretation of that is sex as opposed to sexual preferences is simply grossly out of order. There is no way in the world that one has anything to do with the next. This (sex) is an ordinary English word judicially decided that’s been in the Constitution since the Constitution came into force on January 7, 1964 and it has been repeated all along.
“It is in fact in the present Constitution. In fact, the amendments that the FNM wanted to make (in a previous constitutional referendum) used the same word in 2002 when the amendment failed. No one raised it then.
“But what it is, because of the homophobia in the country, it is a way to defeat something by not having to meet the legitimate and traditional arguments. I said that if you hate or are against gay people then you should just come out and say ‘I don’t like them they shouldn’t have any rights’ and so on and so forth or if you are a misogynist and you don’t agree with women having rights (say it) but don’t pollute the argument with something which is irrelevant.”
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.
However, there has been considerable opposition to the bill as political pundits insist that the wording opens the door to same sex marriage legalisation in the Bahamas.
Prime Minister Perry Christie has stressed that the bill would not legalise same sex marriages in the Bahamas. He previously said the government is not going to change the wording of the amendment although it has sparked heated public debate.
Mr Christie admitted that people were anxious about the issue of same sex marriages, but said that lawyers have told the government it is doing “the right thing” as the language in the bill conforms with that of laws and constitutions of other countries.