By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
RELIGIOUS leaders yesterday praised the passage of the four Constitutional (Amendment) Bills on gender equality in the House of Assembly, calling the action a “great, historic success”.
Bishop Simeon Hall, Rev Philip McPhee, Archdeacon James Palacious and Bishop Victor Cooper all voiced their support for the passage of the legislation, which seeks to achieve gender equality in the country.
Bishop Hall and Rev McPhee, in particular, also suggested that the controversy surrounding the fourth bill, which seeks to end discrimination based on sex, was “not justified”. Those opposed to this bill fear it would pave the way for same sex marriage in the country.
Their statements came after the House of Assembly passed the bills yesterday. The bills will now move on to the Senate for a vote, and if passed by three quarters of the Upper Chamber, will pave the way for the long-delayed constitutional referendum.
Earlier this week, Catholic Archbishop Patrick Pinder, Anglican Bishop Laish Boyd and Global United Fellowship Bishop Neil Ellis all pledged their support for the bills and the expected gender equality referendum.
“From some time now we should have given women, where they make choices as to who their husband is going to be and they’re foreign, we should have done this a long time ago,” Bishop Hall said. “I am motivated by the fact that I have a daughter who worked in the Caribbean for CARICOM for several years. What if she were to bring (home) a man from the Caribbean? Does that mean that my grandchild or grandchildren will not have rights? That’s foolishness. I think women are of equal quality as men as human beings, and we should do it. And I believe it’s the right thing they have done today.”
Regarding the controversy surrounding bill four, Bishop Hall said: “When this first came to the fore, I went and I tried to study it so I can make an intelligent decision. I have no problem with any of the bills. The concerns were made that it was opening the door for homosexuality and all that, that was never my concern. I think the law said what it says, and I’m always amazed at how people can take an argument, a debate, and pull it down to something else.”
Rev McPhee, pastor of Mt Calvary Baptist Church, said the passage of the bills was a “great, historic success” and proved that the country has “moved to a next level”.
“I think it’s a great day in the Bahamas, and it’s great to be a Bahamian,” he said. “I commend the country for moving to the next level. I commend the government for taking the next step, and the opposition for being the kind of opposition that every government, every country needs to keep them on track. And so today is a historic day, the whole world salutes the Bahamas on what happened today and we’re proud of it.”
When asked about his take on the controversy surrounding the fourth bill, he said: “Not justified, and I think we must commend the Minister of Education who outlined and fixed a lot of things that people were concerned about.”
Archdeacon Palacious, along with Bahamas Christian Council Vice President Bishop Victor Cooper, also said they were in support of the equality referendum.
“I voted for it in 2002; I didn’t have a problem with it then and I never had a problem with it,” Archdeacon Palacious said. “God made male and female in his image. I can’t think of a God who would make somebody who does not have equal rights as someone else. It’s as simple as that.”
Bishop Cooper said: “I fully support the bills and I think people are coming to understand the importance of it now. These bills not only affect us now, but they would affect my grandchildren and in fact my relatives… (they have) long-term consequences.”