By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
CATHOLIC Archbishop Patrick Pinder has expressed “prayerful support” to all MPs as Parliament votes today on amendments to the Constitution, which seek to achieve gender equality.
Archbishop Pinder yesterday said in a brief statement that not only were the amendments good and needed, but they are of profound national significance far beyond politics.
He said all Bahamians of goodwill should support the proposed changes.
Members of Parliament are expected to vote today on the four Constitutional Amendment Bills.
The bills, which have been sitting in the committee stage since 2014, will allow for a referendum to be held.
Archbishop Pinder is the latest religious leader to pledge support for the amendments.
On Monday, Anglican Bishop Laish Boyd and Global United Fellowship Bishop Neil Ellis both said they supported the expected gender equality referendum.
The bishops issued separate statements to voice their support.
Bishop Boyd said he earnestly hoped that Parliament would pass all four bills so that the government might set the date for the referendum. He further praised the government’s long over due decision to move ahead with the referendum.
In his statement, Bishop Ellis said after prayerful consideration and careful review he was supporting the four proposed amendments.
He said: “These amendments will ensure that men and women finally have equal rights in our nation’s foundational legal document – the Constitution of The Bahamas; for how can men and women be equal in Christ, through our shared faith, but not equal under our nation’s Constitution?”
He said by amending the Constitution, Bahamians will be providing their sons and daughters with dignity and equal rights.
The issue of gender equality is a part of the long-delayed constitutional referendum that has stalled since 2013.
During the summer of 2014, Prime Minister Perry Christie tabled the four Constitutional Amendment Bills in the House of Assembly, which must be passed by three quarters’ support in both houses of Parliament for a referendum to be held.
The first bill would enable a child born outside The Bahamas to a Bahamian woman and a non-Bahamian father to have automatic Bahamian citizenship at birth. However, the government does not plan to have the clause operate retroactively.
The second bill would allow a Bahamian woman who marries a foreign man to secure for him the same access to Bahamian citizenship that a Bahamian man has always enjoyed under the Constitution in relation to his foreign wife.
The third bill seeks to remedy the one area of the Bahamas’ Constitution that discriminates against men based on gender. Presently, an unmarried Bahamian father cannot pass his citizenship to a child born to a foreign woman.
This would give an unwed Bahamian father the same right to pass citizenship to his child that a Bahamian woman has always had under the Constitution in relation to a child born to her out of wedlock, provided proof of paternity.
There is concern in some quarters that bill four, which seeks to end discrimination based on sex, could pave the way for gay marriage. The government has repeatedly said this concern is unwarranted.