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Bishop Urges ‘No’ Vote In Gender Equality Referendum

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

BISHOP Walter Hanchell has come out against the upcoming constitutional referendum, charging that it would lead to same-sex marriage and an “influx” of foreign men using Bahamian women as a “ticket” to get work.

Bishop Hanchell, president of the group Citizens for Justice (CFJ), said most political leaders and some religious leaders in the country are either intentionally deceiving people or being disingenuous about the true intent of the referendum.

Bishop Hanchell, of Great Commission Ministries, said his group is concerned about the second bill, claiming that it “seeks to grant automatic citizenship to foreign men married to Bahamian women”.

In fact, the bill would not grant automatic citizenship to such people, but give the foreign spouse of a Bahamian woman the same right to apply for citizenship that Bahamian men afford their foreign wives. They would still have to prove that their marriage is legitimate.

“Over the years, we have heard of numerous complaints of foreign men marrying Bahamian women in order to have status in the country,” he said in a press statement.

“These men usually abuse their wives and children and eventually leave them to go to America or they find another love.

“If bill two is successful, we will see an influx of foreign men coming to The Bahamas for work and using Bahamian women as their ticket. This would make it even more difficult for Bahamian men to find jobs in a market where unemployment is extremely high and poverty, crime and other social ills are at epidemic levels.

“We must protect our women from economic refugees seeking legal status,” he said.

Bishop Hanchell said even the opposition Free National Movement “appears to have deserted their role in opposing the bills and warning the Bahamian people of all the negative aspects of the bills, perhaps to appease female voters or special interest groups”.

Bishop Hanchell said the launch of the “YES Bahamas” campaign and the announcement that the referendum will be held on June 7 is a concern, as is Prime Minister Perry Christie’s appointment of Senate President Sharon Wilson and former Senate President Lynn Holowesko as co-chairs of the campaign.

“CFJ is of the opinion that persons with opposing views on any of the bills presented to the Bahamian people should be given the same resources and opportunities by the government to present their case,” he said.

Without citing authoritative references, Bishop Hanchell said the changes the first three proposed Constitutional Amendment Bills will bring can happen without a referendum.

“Legislation in the Parliament can correct any gender equality concerns,” he said.

As for the fourth bill, which seeks to prohibit discrimination against anyone based on their sex, Bishop Hanchell said: “While we respect the views of every Bahamian on this very important issue, we too are entitled to our viewpoint and will share them with the Bahamian people during the educational phase of the referendum.”

“Bill four seeks to do more than erase discrimination but is an attempt by the government to give special privileges and rights to the LGBT community.”

Officials have repeatedly rejected this contention. Last year the Office of the Attorney General obtained advice from prominent UK constitutional lawyer Michael Beloff, QC, who dismissed concerns that the bill could lead to same-sex marriage. He concluded that no precedent in Westminster style constitutions would allow this to happen.

In further explaining why bill four is unnecessary, Bishop Hanchell cited women serving as governor general, acting prime minister, government ministers and other high positions as proof that women can rise to high positions in The Bahamas and not be discriminated against.

“Women have taken advantage of more educational opportunities than men,” he said. “They are aggressive and work harder than their male counterparts. Bahamian women drive the finest cars, live in the most lavish homes and live as well or better than most men.”

Bishop Hanchell said the government should be neutral in the matter. However, it’s not unusual for governments to take sides during constitutional referendums.

The role of neutrality is being played by the Constitutional Commission, headed by Sean McWeeney.

Comments

jackbnimble 2 years, 11 months ago

I agree with the Bishop. The first three Bills are "citizenship" bills. Nothing to do with gender equality.

People say citizenship will not be automatic for the spouse of a Bahamian woman, but even if they take a while to give it, it will eventually be granted as it will now be the "constitutional right" of the spouse which cannot be denied unless he commits a crime or treason (which is highly unlikely). The words "gender equality" in my opinion are just a guise. This has nothing to do with equality but everything to do with granting citizenship to anyone married or born to a Bahamian.

The intention of the 4th Bill is also questionable. Too many people have a problem with it and because they refuse to fix the wording, the suspicion has only heightened. I would be shocked it gets through.

Are we looking as a small nation to have an influx of "new" citizens when we can hardly contain and control the illegal influx of immigrants that are currently within our borders and asserting a right to citizenship because they were born here (albeit to illegal persons)?

I trust the voters see this nonsense for what it is. Let's just keep the Bahamas for Bahamians please. Call me xenophobic. Trust me, I don't care, but we are not America. We are NOT a melting pot nor are we hard up for more foreign-blooded citizens.

It will be my pleasure to vote NO!!!!

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Greentea 2 years, 11 months ago

Of course they are because women should have the same citizenship rights as men.

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gbgal 2 years, 11 months ago

Would someone please meet with the bishop and this person for a one-on-one discussion about the referendum? After all the many explanations, they are still not understanding the true issues. It boggles the mind!

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Economist 2 years, 11 months ago

Sometimes the ignorance or the deliberate intention to mislead is mind blowing. Article 8 states "A person born outside The Bahamas after 9th July shall become a citizen of The Bahamas at the date of his birth if at that date his father is a citizen of The Bahamas..."

Bill 1 will change that to "if either its mother or father is a citizen of The Bahamas"

Article 54 of the Constitution deals with the alteration of the Constitution. It says that Article 8 can only be changed by a Bill passed in both houses (House of Assembly and the Senate) with a vote, in favour, of not less than three quarters of all the members AND after the Bill has been submitted to the voters and on a vote the majority of the people voting approve.

So no the government can't fix it without the referendum.

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Publius 2 years, 11 months ago

Oh, it's one of those Bishops talking... clicks back arrow

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viewersmatters 2 years, 11 months ago

The mind can easily be fooled and deceived, when the truth is brought into the light the first the that's going to bed said is " This is what you the people wanted and this is what you all voted for.". Be careful for what your asking for.

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MajorTom 2 years, 11 months ago

As the law presently stands, a foreign spouse of a Bahamian woman may aquire the right to work in the Bahamas after a short amount of time, and then may aquire permanent residency after a period of five years of residency in The Bahamas. Any “influx” has already happened, or is occurring as we speak. The Department of Immigration already has a system in place to verify the legitimacy of these marriages. No new flood-gates will suddenly open as the result of a yes vote in the upcoming referendum, and not to dent Bahamian pride too much, but the number of foreigners educated enough to take away decent jobs from Bahamians may not be as eager to move here as many would like to believe. In fact, many Bahamians themselves see a proper education as their ticket out of The Bahamas.

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Greentea 2 years, 11 months ago

My fellow Bahamians, refuse to be sidetracked by dumb, ignorant positions based on fear coming from insecure men and delusional women in this country. Sad a lot of this is coming from so called Christians. I hope this man's church ignores him. A man ain't one bit smarter than a woman and a woman is no less than a man. If men have been marrying foreigners left and right for the past million years and the biggest fear from this is women marrying foreign men then we need to catch ourselves. This is about a fundamental human right. Men and women are EQUAL. Stop thinking Bahamian women are dumb. If they decide to marry a foreign man so what? from what I can see, we could use a little infusion because Too many Bahamian men are lousy and busy doing the bank lane shuffle, too many lonely women running around this town, too much man sharing going on and too much combrucktion going on in families because of cheating man. Besides We need to diversify this gene pool, its hard to have conversations with some of these young people- something wrong.

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birdiestrachan 2 years, 11 months ago

I will be voting yes to #4 only, All of the others will be no, I may be wrong but I doubt this rererendum will pass. Why did they not leave this until the election is called and vote for both at the same time it would have saved some money.

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Chucky 2 years, 11 months ago

The bishop says he's against lesbian and gays, yet his church is full of pedophiles worldwide and the same church is constantly shuffling its "pervert abuser / molester priests / cardinals , bishops" out of one jurisdiction to another to avoid answering to criminal charges!

The church is only against homosexual acts that are committed outside the church.

I think that no church or religion should have any voice in laws, government or anything related to the lives of us citizens.

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John 2 years, 11 months ago

Number 4 may be the least dangerous of all the bills. At least the gays and lesbians will be Bahamian. The other bills are seeking to give citizenship to persons outside the Bahamas who may be known or unknown. And while the bills declare that the father or mother must be verified can you trust this government given the level of corruption this already exists? Even Tarzan will be claiming citizenship in the Bahamas, especially if oil is discovered. Not to mention the those who worship Gilden Budda! Yet we have so many born here and living here who cannot get citizenship. I say vote NO to all of the bills and leave the constitution intact. At least we will know who they are whenever they apply for citizenship.

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John 2 years, 11 months ago

Then foreigners can marry a Bahamian, get citizenship, then divorce the Bahamian spouse and import his/her foreign spouse and other family members into the country or to get citizenship. In 10 short years the Bahamas can be like Trinidad where not only do the Indians outnumber the natives but they are taking all their rights and privileges away. Who on cabbage beach now?

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Chucky 2 years, 11 months ago

Hey John, Do you really think people want to be here that bad? Half of our people are trying to get out! Don't be so stupid, if you married a foreign bride and were told she couldn't have status what would you think?
People with your kind of closed minded attitude are what is ruining our country in my opinion. The last thing we should be doing is trying to preserve our current culture / mindset. The more we can dilute these genes and attitudes the better!

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John 2 years, 11 months ago

Your response to my post is the strongest argument yet that these bills need to be defeated. Why are you here if you don't want to be here.

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Economist 2 years, 11 months ago

John, we asked to become a sovereign nation. When you become a sovereign nation you agree to play by certain international rules. And you have to keep up with the rules unless you want to get isolated and your economy and people starve.

Fact is these 4 Bills get us caught up with the rest of the world. 1 & 2, in particular are to fix archaic and bigot minded thoughts which, even in the early 70's, were outdated.

Don't forget that one of the framers of our Constitution did not want Bahamians to be allowed to move freely from island to island without government approval.

Wake up and join the 21st century.

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John 2 years, 11 months ago

Say what you like the constitution should never be tampered with to allow ' persons unknown' to become citizens of this country. Just look what happened in Trinidad. I say keep the constitution intact and untampered.

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Reality_Check 2 years, 11 months ago

You sound very much like a frustrated Bahamian lesbian who wants to marry her foreign girl friend who has three foreign adopted children so that they can all become Bahamian and move to the Bahamas to live with you happily ever after. Trouble is, our country just doesn't have the room or the jobs to accommodate the many thousands who will be brought to our shores by many like you. There are way too many Bahamians suffering in our country as it is, and we simply cannot afford for this suffering to be exacerbated by these proposed changes to our constitution. Hopefully the vast majority of Bahamian voters will have enough sense to vote "NO" to each of the four proposed amendments.

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sheeprunner12 2 years, 11 months ago

Read Pastor Cedric Moss piece in today's Guardian .......... this Referendum is a political campaign and not a genuine effort by the PLP .......... any fool should be able to see that .. but the PLP has already neutralize the FNM, so true-true Bahamians have to hold the fort against the PLP attempt to pad the voters' list next election ........... its all a "feel good" propaganda with very little incremental improvement in the lives of ordinary Bahamians

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Greentea 2 years, 11 months ago

now that is some steaming hot BS! so far we have done a relatively good job separating this from politics. let's keep it that way. for once Bahamians lets act like a country in support of bills that recognize the humanity of us all and not some red and yellow tribe that just has us either running in place or falling behind. I am appalled by the hypocrisy of th church in this matter. There is NO room for bigotry in this country.

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Economist 2 years, 11 months ago

Sheep runner, have you read the Bill and have you read the Constitution? If you had you would not be writing the above comments.

You can vote some or all items 'yes' or 'no' on the referendum and vote against the PLP in the election.

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sheeprunner12 2 years, 11 months ago

You and Greentea continue to drink the PLP kool-aid ........ we will all see where this will be heading in the next decade ....... do you think the average Bahamian woman feels inferior to a Bahamian man????? .......... when 70% of the population is born out of wedlock that gives the mother the right to pass on her citizenship to her child, .............women have already empowered themselves to make decisions not involving the father ..... and Bahamian men have already accepted their inferior social status to allow the baby mama to determine the citizenship of their children ....... Will these Bills change this sad state of Bahamian society?????? smdh

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Economist 2 years, 11 months ago

Obviously you are not a Christian. As you seem to prefer our women to have children out of wedlock.

Read Article 8 again and read further at 14(1) and you will see that we reward the woman who has the child out of wedlock (by automatically giving them citizenship) and punish those who marry and have the child in a proper Christian marriage (by refusing to give them automatic citizenship and making them apply at 18).

The amendment to Article 8 lets her the children she has in wedlock also get citizenship.

But maybe you don't have Christian values.

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sheeprunner12 2 years, 11 months ago

Economist and Greentea ................... it was the PLP that created this Constitution ..... those Lodge brothers who knew exactly what they were crafting back in 1973 ......... I am very much Christian ......... please take your concerns up with Pindling and his Lodge boys who dealt these injustices to Bahamian women

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Economist 2 years, 11 months ago

I agree that this is the Constitution that LO and his team came up with. Indeed it would have been much worse had it not been for the fact that the UK supported the opposition and, I am told, made the current one the minimum they would agree to grant independence under.

We have an opportunity now to put some of this right and to bring our country into the 21st century.

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licks2 2 years, 11 months ago

Now this is just not true. . . Order in Chief 1972. . . (current constitution) was put together by the PLP, and the Opposition party and the Privy Council. . . with the Privy Council having the final review and endorsement ! You politicians really believe that we don't read and research too aye?

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Economist 2 years, 11 months ago

I think that you will find that the Constitution was set out as a schedule to The Bahamas Independence Order 1973 laid before the UK Parliament (1973 No.1080) on 20th June 1973.

Can you give me the details of the Order in Chief 1972. Thanks

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licks2 2 years, 11 months ago

The Bahamas had two Orders in Chief ( 1968 and 1972) both were which were so designated "BEFORE" presented to the British Parliament. . .went through the process of debates, Gazetted and became law for the governing of its colony-Bahamas!

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John 2 years, 11 months ago

Marriage to a US citizen does not automatically give one right to citizenship. There is still a process. A process that can take upwards of 5 years. Then once citizenship is granted the couple is still monitored to see if the marriage was genuine or just one of convenience. Also if the immigrant spouse is determined to be undesirable or if he engages in criminal activity his citizenship is revoked and he is returned to the country from which he entered the USA on in the alternative his country of birth. Unfortunately the Bahamas will not have the powers to force countries to take their citizens back. Especially after they have relinquished their citizenship . Do not make citizenship automatic.

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Economist 2 years, 11 months ago

The United States is not a good comparison. The reason is that the United States is one of the few countries that has not signed many of the Human Rights and other treaties relating to war crimes and land mines etc. They have been able to do this because they are the most power nation.

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licks2 2 years, 11 months ago

The upcoming referendum are direct result of current pressure put on the Bahamas by the UN to force compliance with CERD, CCPR, CESCR and CEDAW conventions which the Bahamas has already ratified and is obligated to now enact into current law!

I have read each accord and all their reservation and derogations and the Bahamas has no protests on record that exclude it from allowing same-sex marriages!

Currently, there are UN Reporters throughout our government system forcing compliance for this member state. Trafficking in Persons and agreements in CEDAW and other outstanding compliance reports are being forced on the Bahamas as we speak! The Bahamas has already completed its national plan on TIP and submitted its compliance report to the UN and currently reviewing all laws to see what impact they may have on issues of possible discrimination. . .especially for females!

Most outstanding among the mention agreements is the matter of Rights for Gay persons. . .including the right to marriage! THIS COUNTRY IS CURRENTLY UNDER TREMENDOUS UN PRESSURE TO CONFORM TO THE UN AGREEMENT ON THAT SUBJECT. . .WHICH THEY HAVE RETIFIED AND FAILED TO ENACT. . .BECAUSE OF THE PEOPLE'S FEELINGS!

The problem for the government and the UN reporters present in the Bahamas is that in order to change the Constitution to allow same-sex marriage in the Bahamas. . .a Constitutional Referendum is a MUST!

According to International Customary Law (which is a UN sanction principle of obligation for member states) only the people of the Bahamas can CHANGE that Constitutional Article that gives the right to same -sex marriages! They have a problem. . .HOW TO GET THE PEOPLE TO CHANGE THAT LAW!

The UN and our Government knows that the Bahamian People are not ready to give that right! And the UN will not accept further non-compliance on that matter! So the referendum commission is trying to "tack" that UN request onto our outstanding botched referendum of about 15 years ago. When they know what they are trying to do. . ."sneg" that UN request on the people "hidden" in the bills for equality. . . all changes stipulated by CEDAW ET AL!

For the life of me I don't see why they just don't come out and tell the people what they are obligated to do by reason of our ratifications in various UN agreements.

Now I will be voting yes to #4. . .but the lies are unacceptable for me! THE REAL "THING" THEY WANT TO GET "PAST" IS BILL #4. . .WHICH GIVE A CONSTITUTIONAL CHALLENGE IN COURT TO THE RIGHT TO SAME SEX MARRIAGE. . .WHICH WILL NOT FIND SUPPORT IN THE BAHAMAS AND MUST GO TO THE PRIVY COUNCIL. . .WHO WILL RULE BASED ON THE ALLOWANCES IN THE UK. . .SAME SEX UNIONS!

The USA and other developed nations allowed the argument for same sex marriages based on the word "SEX". . .the same word the commission is insisting be in bill #4. . .which they know will be challenged the very day it is Gazetted!

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jus2cents 2 years, 11 months ago

And we all know why "Pastors" are the group most afraid of gay people.

People who are threatened by gays and lesbians are fearing their own impulses, "they doth protest too much" those who oppress others have most likely been oppressed themselves, (Understandable, hasn't most people in the Bahamas!?) they are unaccepting of others because they cannot be accepting of themselves.

Those who have hidden homosexuality and or homophobia- It has been proven over & over again that the most anti gay people are the ones most likely to have latent homosexual tendencies.

So, now Women can't be equal to Men in the 21st century Bahamas, because of a few outspoken latent homosexuals are offended (so they say) whilst hiding behind their warped religious dogma, spewing Christian Values? no it is their own Vile bigotry!

THIS is the biggest injustice of all! Do not give them a penny for their VOTE NO / Hate campaign, because that is what it is, pure blatant hate.

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licks2 2 years, 11 months ago

Do not give them a penny out of the public purse to support their not vote. . .which you call bigotry. . . yet you support giving the yes vote funding out of the public purse to fund their yes campaign? YOU DO SEE THAT YOU ARE JUST AS A BIGOT AND SUPPRESING OF DEMOCRATIC PRINCIPLES AS YOU ACCUSE THEM OF BEING?

MR POT YA CALLING THE KETTLE BLACK CHILD!! LOL!

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jus2cents 2 years, 11 months ago

And where exactly have I said a penny should be given to the Yes Campaign? Nither sides should be funded by the government kitty!

This should not even be an issue, it should'a been amended by parliament years ago, it is about Fundamental Human Rights it is the 21st century, women should be equal. All this bull about citizenship and gender is smoke and mirror claptrap, from ignorant, paranoid people who clearly can't read otherwise they wouldn't be carrying on the way they are.

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licks2 2 years, 11 months ago

For me it is not so much about giving rights to people but the fact that this government is "trying to trick" the Bahamian people into providing the means for same sex marriage. . .under pressure from the UN. Just tell the people that the Bahamas agreed to some accords and now the UN comes a calling for compliance. . .just like they are now "calling" on them highly religious South American nations!

Those government s are just telling their people what the deal is. . .not trying to bamboozle them into doing something that the people can clearly see. . .that's my beef!

Like I said I will be voting yes for all 4 bills. . . but those same "ignorant, paranoid citizens who can't read will hand this PLP government and you yall tails in a hand basket because of yinna trying to "fool" them! They don't trust this government already to keep its word. . . the gaming referendum shows that. . .and the people want payback. . .so yinna better be careful how yall approach them this time! Them same ignorant, paranoid and dumb pastors have more "sway" over them same dumb and paranoid masses which you have so mush disdain and loathing for THAN YOU DO. . . THEY HAVE WHAT YINNA WANT.

DON'T MIND THEM PLP PASTORS YALL "ROLL OUT" FOR YES SUPPORT. . .WE DONE KNOW WHERE THEIR LOYALTY LAY.

YINNA KEEP UP WITH YA CONDECENDING AND NAME CALLING CRAP AND SEE WHAT THE "DUMB" AND DIRTY MASSES WILL DO WITH YINNA!! Lol!

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