By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
ATTORNEY General Allyson Maynard-Gibson yesterday dismissed the concerns of a group of local pastors over the fourth Constitutional Amendment Bill, charging that those in support of the upcoming referendum will not “live our lives” around a “what if”.
Mrs Maynard-Gibson, speaking with reporters yesterday, said the concerns recently launched by a specific group of pastors over the fourth Constitutional Amendment Bill are “not an issue” as far as the referendum on gender equality is concerned, stating that the laws of The Bahamas “unequivocally” do not provide for same-sex marriages.
Furthermore, Mrs Maynard-Gibson insisted that the upcoming gender equality referendum is not about gay marriage as some may fear, but is “solely about ending the discrimination in our Constitution and making sure that we rid ourselves of women as second class citizens”.
Ultimately, Mrs Maynard-Gibson said the proposed change of bill four is “not a big deal” adding that is “a very small change and it’s a common sense change.”
Last week, Save Our Bahamas - the group that opposed the 2013 gambling referendum - launched a vote no campaign against the fourth Constitutional Amendment Bill.
As currently worded, bill four seeks to eliminate discrimination in the Constitution based on sex, which has been defined as being “male or female”, by inserting the word “sex” into Article 26.
However, the group said it is convinced, given the precedent set in other countries, that the fourth bill would open the door to legalising same-sex marriage in the Bahamas despite the government’s continued assurances that it would not.
The pastors associated with Save Our Bahamas have contended that the terms “sex” and “being male or female” allows for various interpretations of the phrase. Furthermore, the group has agitated for the government to include the words “born male” and “born female” into the fourth bill, suggesting that the phrases would further provide the necessary protection against same-sex marriage.
“…We’re not going to live our life around a what if,” Mrs Maynard-Gibson said in response. “The argument is ‘what if.’ These people who are asking for that concede that the words are clear and that they do not provide for same-sex marriage. This referendum is not about same-sex marriage. This referendum is very simple - a small change in our Constitution.
“The same way that we in the Bahamas would not tolerate discrimination in the Bahamas on the base of race, we’re saying in the 21st century, we want enshrined in our Constitution, we will not tolerate discrimination on the basis of being male or female.
“On the point about whether or not our law provides for gay marriage, unequivocally, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the law in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas does not provide for gay marriage, for same-sex marriages. Our law is very clear, and it was saved in our Constitution, that a marriage is a union between a man and a woman, male at birth, and female at birth. The case law is also very clear on this matter.”
She added: “In my view and I say it very respectfully, it’s not an issue as far as this referendum is concerned. This referendum is not about gay marriage. It is solely about ending the discrimination in our Constitution and making sure that we rid ourselves of women as second-class citizens. And we enshrine in our Constitution a bright future for our sons and our daughters.”
Mrs Maynard-Gibson also responded to calls from the country’s transgender community for the government to ensure that the fundamental rights of all genders of Bahamians - male, female, and transgender - are protected.
On Tuesday, Bahamas Transgender Intersex United (BTIU) launched a multi-level equality campaign “Bahamian Trans Lives Matter”, which seeks to secure equal rights for transgendered Bahamians.
Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights advocate Erin Greene, present at the launch, said BTIU members, as well as those in the wider LGBT community should have the right to voice their concerns within the confines of democracy. She called on Bahamians to engage the LGBT community respectfully as the matters related to the constitutional referendum play out.
Democratic National Alliance (DNA) Leader Branville McCartney has suggested that the concerns of the BTIU and the LGBT communities would likely have to be dealt with “by way of referendum.”
When questioned on the matter yesterday, Mrs Maynard-Gibson said: “My response is that when Ms Greene, who is a very smart Bahamian, expressed concerns before, I invited her to come and speak directly to me. She did, and I believe that she was satisfied with the response, and that very same invitation pertains.”
The referendum will be held on June 7.