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Yes To Equality: Parliament Approves Gender Referendum

Demonstrators outside the House of Assembly advocating for a yes vote for the four Constitutional Amendment Bills in Parliament. Photo: BIS

Demonstrators outside the House of Assembly advocating for a yes vote for the four Constitutional Amendment Bills in Parliament. Photo: BIS

WHAT THE BILLS SAY

PARLIAMENTARIANS yesterday passed four Constitutional (Amendment) Bills in the House of Assembly.

House of Assembly officials have said the following questions, based on the bills, will most likely be presented by the government during the proposed referendum.

The Christie administration has yet to set an official date for the vote. The bills have to be passed in the Senate before a referendum is held.

Bill 1: Approval of alteration to Article 8 and the repeal of Article 9 of the Constitution.

Do you approve of The Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2014?

Under the proposed change to the Constitution, a child born outside of The Bahamas would, after the coming into operation of this amendment, become a Bahamian citizen at birth if either its mother or father is a citizen of The Bahamas by birth.

Yes [ ] No [ ]

Bill 2: Approval of alteration to Article 10 of the Constitution.

Do you approve of The Constitution (Amendment) (No 2) Bill, 2014?

Under this proposed change to the Constitution, the foreign spouse of a Bahamian citizen would, after the coming into operation of this Article, be entitled to apply for and obtain citizenship subject to satisfying:

(i) existing national security or public policy considerations; and

(ii) new provisions guarding against marriages of convenience.

Yes [ ] No [ ]

Bill 3: Approval of alteration to Article 14 of the Constitution.

Do you approve of The Constitution (Amendment) (No 3) Bill, 2014?

Under this proposed change to the Constitution, a Bahamian father of a person born out wedlock after the coming into operation of this amendment would be able to pass his citizenship to that person subject to legal proof that he is the father.

Yes [ ] No [ ]

Bill 4: Approval of alteration to Article 26 of the Constitution.

Do you approve of The Constitution (Amendment) (No 4) Bill, 2014?

Under this proposed change to the Constitution, it would be unlawful to discriminate based on “sex”, which would be defined as “being male or female”.

Yes [ ] No [ ]

By KHRISNA VIRGIL

Tribune Staff Reporter

kvirgil@tribunemedia.net

IN a “historic” vote, the government’s four Constitutional (Amendment) Bills were passed in the House of Assembly yesterday after a nearly two year delay.

Prime Minister Perry Christie, who spoke following the parliamentary vote on each of the four amendments, said it represented this country’s continued march towards a common loftier goal to fulfill equality for men and women.

The nation’s leader said it was “abhorrent” to The Bahamas’ fundamental values that more than 53 years since women won the right to vote, they still do not have constitutional protection against discrimination based on sex.

He said there were just two steps remaining toward completing this goal. He was referring to the passage of the bills in the Senate. A referendum is expected to follow. Mr Christie said the final say was not left for politicians but to Bahamians.

Responding to the prime minister, Free National Movement Leader Dr Hubert Minnis said unlike the then opposition Progressive Liberal Party in 2002, the FNM would not change its vote when they walked outside of the House.

“Mr Speaker I think it’s important for me to say on this occasion that it is historic and it does represent the continuing march of the Bahamian people towards our common loftier goal with the passage of the four Constitutional Bills in the House of Assembly today,” Mr Christie said.

“The next step in the constitutional process will be the replication in the Senate of what we accomplished in the House of Assembly today and then after that the final and most important part of the process namely the submission of the bills to the Bahamian people themselves for approval or otherwise is a national referendum.

“It is for me to say Mr Speaker that the people of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas will have the final say in this matter. Not the politicians, but Mr Speaker I would wish to at this stage indicate with great satisfaction that this has come about because of the bi-partisanship that was pledged initially by the leader of the opposition that he has fulfilled consistently in all of the matters in all of the areas that we have chosen to work together on.”

He continued: “I would like the Bahamian people to know that over this last year and half we have sat with religious leaders in our country together and we have indicated together that these bills we support and so I think the Bahamian people will see today the full manifestation and flowering of democracy where men and women elected to Parliament would have had the opportunity to express themselves openly and clearly as has been done by the division today.

“So I am confident, Mr Speaker, that with the support of all of the people I have indicated that have been apart of this process that the Bahamian people will have the opportunity to remove the stain that would cause our women an inferior status before the law.”

Dr Minnis noted that the FNM had long been a party that recognised the rights of women.

“We have been in the forefront in leading gender equality and for women’s rights, justice and democracy. Mr Speaker it was us who had appointed the first female governor general. It was us who had appointed the first female speaker of the House of Parliament, the first female attorney general, the first female acting prime minister.

“Mr Speaker these bills today unfortunately are being discussed 14 years later as we have denied many women and families their rights which they should have had since 2002. Mr Speaker we are happy that these bills are finally passed here in Parliament.”

He was referring to the failed constitutional referendum in 2002, which addressed gender equality among other issues.

Votes

The first bill was passed by all 37 members present in the House of Assembly. Marco City MP Greg Moss voted against bill two and bill three was passed with the full support of the members present in the Lower Chamber.

The fourth bill, which was the most controversial, was passed by a vote of 34 members of Parliament supporting it, two voting no and one abstaining.

Mr Moss and Bamboo Town MP Renward Wells voted against the bill while Central Grand Bahama MP Neko Grant abstained.

St Anne’s MP Hubert Chipman was absent from the vote due to illness.

Bill one seeks to give a Bahamian woman the same rights as a Bahamian man to pass on citizenship to her child born outside of The Bahamas.

Bill two would give a Bahamian woman the same right as a Bahamian man to pass on citizenship to her foreign husband.

Bill three would give a Bahamian father the same right as a Bahamian mother to pass on citizenship to his child born out of wedlock, provided proof of paternity.

The final bill would make it unconstitutional to discriminate on the grounds of sex, meaning being male or female.

The Status of Children Amendment Bill, a provision that limits the type of evidence to DNA that can be used to prove that an unmarried Bahamian is the father of a child, was also passed.

Yesterday, Mr Chipman said in a Facebook post that while he was absent from the vote he supported all of the bills. He said due to a minor medical procedure and advice from his doctor to remain on bed rest, he was not in the House.

“If I were present I would vote yes for my daughters and all the women of St Anne’s and our Bahamaland. I support all of the bills,” the post read.

“I have consistent attendance at the House of Assembly. As I have outlined above I have very personal reasons for why I would want to have this vote passed. Therefore, there must be a serious reason as to why I am not present. I informed everyone that I underwent a minor procedure last week, although minor, my physician has instructed that I stay home at this time.”

Push back

Before the vote was taken in the House, Mr Moss said he could not support bill four out of a belief that inserting the word “sex” would leave the door open to same sex marriages. He argued that the government needed to draft a proviso to prevent this from happening.

However Marathon MP Jerome Fitzgerald rejected this point of view.

The Education minister said while the government was sensitive to all sides of the argument, it had well explored this issue.

He said when it comes to introducing the word “sex” it came down to a matter of settled law, meaning a persons would either have to be male or female based on chromosomes.

He accused Mr Moss of injecting confusion into the debate.

He said defining sex in the Constitution as being male or female was sufficient to safeguard the Bahamas against the possibility of same sex marriages.

Comments

sheeprunner12 2 years, 8 months ago

Who paid those lackeys standing there in front of the white Queen??????? ....... UR 2.0

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 years, 8 months ago

The Numbers Boys probably paid 'em as part of the effort of Perry Christie, Sean McWeeney and Rubie Nottage to swing the average Bahamian voter in the referendum to come.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 years, 8 months ago

Re-post: Not long now before a man will be able to marry a man and a woman will be able to marry a woman and our government will legally recognize these same-sex marriages in exactly the same way as they currently recognize the marriage between a man and a woman. Every parliamentarian who today voted in favour of (or for whatever reason failed to vote against) these bills as presently drafted has abandoned both the institution and sanctity of a marriage as that term has been commonly known and used for centuries. The Christie-led PLP government (and its very warped advisers) have steadfastly refused to put forward an amendment to our constitution (by referendum) that would define marriage as a legal union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of same-sex unions. It seems Mr McWeeney and others like him are hell-bent on thwarting the will of the Bahamian people and failing to recognise that we as Bahamians (as a sovereign nation) have our own unique identity and culture and therefore need not (and in many cases should not) fall victim to the idea that we must do everything that the Americans do or would wish for us to do. This legislation is politically motivated and targeted to tear down the very essence of the term "marriage" as it has always been used in our Christian society. Instead of a gay "marriage" we should have in our laws a gay "union"; instead of a gay "spouse" we should have in our laws a gay "companion"; and so on. It makes no more sense to call a same-sex union a marriage than it does to describe a same-sex union as a coupling of two mates! How can a man and a man mate or a woman and a woman mate to produce their very own offspring?!! The laws of nature are very well defined as should be the term marriage: The union of a man and a woman! And NO, I'm not a gay basher.....just someone who respects the institution of marriage under our current laws and is dead set against the application of the term "marriage" to same-sex unions, which is a very real possibility going forward under the new draft legislation (bills) and the proposed amendments to the constitution.

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TalRussell 2 years, 8 months ago

Comrades while it's good the demonstrators turned out in support of holding a Constitutional Referendum, The Tribune must have known but never mentioned in the story which community they most represented, and which of the four Constitutional Amendment Bills they most support – since it is the most controversial of the four Bills to yet to be decided by voters.
Far too often this newspaper's reporters settle for incomplete reporting that does falls short of satisfying the intelligence of its readers.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 years, 8 months ago

Re-post: The vast majority of Bahamians want the sanctity of a 'marriage' between a man and a woman preserved in our country and not torn down for political expediency as has been the case in the U.S. Most countries in our world today and most of our world's total population remain firmly of the view that the institution of marriage must by definition be the matrimonial joining of a man and woman to the exclusion of all other forms of union or companionship between men and women. The very origin of the word "matrimony" is rooted in the word "mother". Equal rights for men and women can be had without destroying the sanctity of marriage by simply changing the proposed constitutional amendments as currently drafted to define marriage as the legal union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all other forms of union between men and women. Doing so would in no way negate or nullify the "equal rights" deserved and being sought by women in our country today. Sadly though, we have a relatively small (but loud) number of individuals in our society who would prefer to see the equal rights of men and women derailed if they cannot also force on the rest of us a much wider definition of 'marriage' which runs contrary to the essence and sanctity of that important institution as enjoyed from time eternal by 'married' couples consisting of a man and a woman. No one group of individuals in a clear minority in our society should have the right to interfere with the contract of 'marriage' as it has been known and legally defined since the time of Adam and Eve. Allowing this would be no different than allowing someone to interfere with the well protected McDonald's or Coca Cola brands and the legal contracts these companies have entered into around the world with others. Sean McWeeney needs to sharpen his pen and do the right thing by the wishes of the majority of his fellow Bahamians and the free-world, i.e. clearly and unequivocally define the term 'marriage' in the proposed changes to our constitution as currently drafted to avoid the possibility of same sex 'marriages'. Gays and lesbians can have same-sex 'unions', same-sex 'companions', same-sex 'whatever', but not same-sex 'marriages', the definition and sanctity of which the vast majority of Bahamians and free-world want preserved as is. Bahamians are not Americans Mr McWeeney and we need not do everything that Americans do. Get use to it!

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Publius 2 years, 8 months ago

The vast majority of Bahamians want the sanctity of a 'marriage' between a man and a woman preserved

The only way this can happen is by a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between one biological male and one biological female and a second connected amendment restricting parliament from legislating marriages that do not meet that definition. These current Bills do not make judicial challenge suddenly possible, those challenges can happen right now, today, without any of these Bills ever coming into existence. Same sex marriage today in The Bahamas is not unconstitutional. There is nothing in our Constitution today that prevents Parliament from enacting same sex marriage anytime it chooses. Parliament can enact same sex marriage right now as we speak, without any of these Bills being in existence. This is what most Bahamians do not understand.

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sheeprunner12 2 years, 8 months ago

A "typical marriage" in The Bahamas is the husband + wife + sweetheart(s) ...... what is sanctimonious about that?????????

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sheeprunner12 2 years, 8 months ago

BTW ................ why is it that 70% of Bahamians are born out of wedlock in a Christian, sanctimonious, traditional society??????? ......... can someone answer that question (pastor or politician)????????

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lazybor 2 years, 8 months ago

finally...http://s02.flagcounter.com/mini/rzN/b..." width="1" />

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birdiestrachan 2 years, 8 months ago

The only bill I am voting yes to is the forth bill to send a message to those who commit adultery and fornicate and some how believes they are better than gay people. The bible says that any one who commits sexual sin, sin against their own body. The Bahamas is the Sweetheart capital of the world and it is fine, More children are born out of wed lock it is fine. But the gay person is the worst of the worst. how so. ? The problems in the Bahamas do not come from gay people for the most part. But from parent mothers and fathers who neglect to bring up their Children to obey God and respect all people.

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MonkeeDoo 2 years, 8 months ago

Even Tribune242 gone funky now taking web-shop advertising.

http://tribune242.com/users/photos/20...">http://thetribune.media.clients.ellin..." alt="None">

by MonkeeDoo

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Sickened 2 years, 8 months ago

Dirty money, now clean, is up for grabs! We have a new mafia in town... and they are legit!

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SP 2 years, 8 months ago

.................. Almighty GOD already unquestionably settled this equality issue ...............

PM Christie even usurping GODS authority? Let's sit back and watch GODS response!

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Sickened 2 years, 8 months ago

Looks like GOD is like the FBI: he just watches for years and years before making a move. Perhaps Perry's stroke was the first lightning bolt. Send down the big bolt God, you have enough evidence now and we tired of waiting!!!!

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TalRussell 2 years, 8 months ago

Comrades it sounds cute to say we need to pass an Gender Equality (sex) Constitutional Bill. However, there is no mainstream thinking when it means different things to different people. Some its dear to their hearts or beliefs. Others no more than a passing curiosity. Some it can dramatically affect the freedom to live out their lives the way they choose - positively or negatively. While for others it can open doors of opportunities that may otherwise have been denied them.

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sheeprunner12 2 years, 8 months ago

Don't worry the "local foreigners" and the Rainbow coalition know just what the 4 bills mean for them

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