By SANCHESKA BROWN
Tribune Staff Reporter
FREE National Movement Leader Dr Hubert Minnis said he “fully supports” the Constitutional Amendment Bills on gender equality and plans to vote “yes” on all four bills in Parliament next month.
Dr Minnis admitted, however, that he was not sure how St Anne’s MP Hubert Chipman, Montagu MP Richard Lightbourn and Fort Charlotte MP Dr Andre Rollins will vote on the issues.
All three men have previously expressed reservations about some of the bills.
Dr Minnis said FNM MPs have opened discussions in their respective constituencies to “gain the opinion of their constituents” ahead of the anticipated vote.
Mr Lightbourn has previously said he supported the first bill that would enable a child born outside the Bahamas to a Bahamian woman to have automatic Bahamian citizenship at birth.
He had previously said the proposed constitutional amendments two and three needed further consideration.
Bill two will give the foreign spouse of a Bahamian woman the same right to apply for Bahamian citizenship as the foreign spouse of a Bahamian man. Bill three will give an unwed Bahamian father the right to pass on his citizenship to a child born out of wedlock, once paternity is legally proven.
Bill four seeks to make it unconstitutional to discriminate on the basis of sex in Article 26 of the constitution. This section was objected to fearing that it would open the door to gay marriage. The word “sex” has now been defined to mean “male and female.”
Mr Chipman, with Central Grand Bahama MP Neko Grant, has said they are not prepared to support the fourth amendment bill unless the government adds the words “at birth” to the question.
Dr Rollins has also said he does not support bill four, which some believe could inadvertently open the door for gay marriage.
Despite reservations from some FNM members, Dr Minnis said he has confidence the bills will pass.
“Our position is that we feel that women should have equal opportunities and be equal to men. This was our (referendum) that we brought in 2002 and 14 plus years later the PLP just realises its importance,” Dr Minnis said.
“The party’s position in 2002 remains the same now and personally I am for all four of the bills. Every man will vote for themselves, but the party’s position has always been for gender equality. Chipman and Lightbourn have their own concerns, whether they have gotten over their issues I am not sure but I will be voting yes. They have told me they will be discussing the bills in their respective constituencies and after consultation they will vote on the issue.”
After years of delay, the Christie administration is aiming to have a parliamentary vote on its Constitutional Amendment Bills on March 2, with the referendum slated to take place this summer, The Tribune was told.
A precise date for the referendum has not been given, but Constitutional Commission Chairman Sean McWeeney said the window for having the referendum take place has been narrowed between May and the end of July.
The government began debate on the matter in 2014, but after significant push back from some members of Parliament, the bills were left languishing in the committee stage of the House of Assembly.
There was considerable concern from some that bill four in particular, which seeks to end discrimination based on sex, could pave the way for gay marriage.
Although the government repeatedly said this concern is unwarranted, it has amended the fourth bill to define the word “sex” as “meaning male and female,” Mr McWeeney said on Monday.
Calls to Mr Lightbourn and Mr Chipman were not returned up to press time.