By NICO SCAVELLA
LESBIAN, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender activist Erin Greene said that the laws that prevent same-sex couples from marriage are discriminatory and added that calls for a constitutional definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman are “diametrically opposed to the principles of democracy, equality and the Rule of Law”.
In a press statement released this week, Ms Greene said in spite of Bahamians holding “varying attitudes” that “same-sex attraction and intercourse are an affront to God, nature and society,” a “greater affront” would be “the idea that a citizen or a group of citizens would ‘give up’ a right rather than ensure that all other citizens could enjoy the same right.”
Her statements came in response to Fort Charlotte MP Dr Andre Rollins’ recent call for a constitutional definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman. He has urged the government to include the definition as part of its proposed amendments to the Constitution in the upcoming referendum.
Question four of the proposed referendum will ask voters to eliminate discrimination based on sex in the Constitution, by inserting the word “sex” into Article 26. Some feel this could lead to gay marriage. However, the government has strongly denied this as a possibility and stressed that the matter is only about gender equality.
“The Marriage Act denies access to a marriage contract to same-sex couples, this is discrimination,” Ms Greene said. “The Bahamas Constitution - Chapter 3, Article 26 (4)(C) - permits the government to create discriminatory laws addressing all matters related to marriage, and specifically the provisions of the Marriage Act that discriminates against LGBT Bahamians by not permitting same-sex marriages.
“When LGBT Bahamians are denied access to a state marriage contract with a partner of the same sex they are being discriminated against.”
Recently, Dr Rollins urged the Christie administration to dissolve “apprehension” that ousting sex as a basis for discrimination in the Constitution could eventually lead to same-sex marriages.
He said concerns over the fourth constitutional amendment bill, which seeks to end discrimination based on sex, needed to be addressed to avoid “a torrent of speculation and opposition” that could derail the referendum, and suggested amending the fourth bill to give voters the option of defining marriage in the Constitution “as being between one man and one woman.”
Dr Rollins also hit out on the second constitutional bill, which would allow a Bahamian woman who marries a foreign man to secure for him the same access to Bahamian citizenship that a Bahamian man currently enjoys under the Constitution for his foreign wife.
Instead of classifying the proposed change as a matter of gender equality, Dr Rollins suggested that focus should be on whether any Bahamian – man or woman – should be able to give automatic entitlement to citizenship to a foreign spouse, and whether or not the change would result in the exploitation of Bahamian citizenship.
Ms Greene said, however, that both issues are “diametrically opposed to the principles of democracy, equality and the Rule of Law, and to the fundamental principles of citizenship.”
She added that the proposals “also stand in direct opposition to the biblical concept of free will and the message of Christ.”
“The removal and denial of human and civil rights of citizens is not the mark of a sovereign and democratic state, and it is not the standard for a country that is the home of the descendants of African slaves and Indian indentured servants,” she said. “Indeed it is the slippery slope that we should all be aware of.
“Furthermore, it seems that all of the voices that seek to dismiss this part of the discussion and view it as a distraction, a debacle or a red-herring are willing to turn a blind eye to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the fundamental nature of citizenship and equality.”
The referendum is set for November 6.