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
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.
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.”
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.