FORMER Governors General Sir Arthur Foulkes and Sir Orville Turnquest last night pledged their full support for the upcoming constitutional referendum on gender equality.
In a joint statement released through Bahamas Information Services, they encouraged Bahamians to vote “yes” to all four questions that will be on the ballot.
Both men were among six delegates who attended the Constitutional Conference in December 1972 in London, England and helped frame the country’s Constitution.
“As former governors general of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, as former members of Parliament, and as signers to our nation’s independence Constitution, we wish to express our full support for gender equality in our Constitution and to encourage the Bahamian people to vote ‘yes’ on all four of the amendments that will be presented in the June 7 referendum,” the statement said.
“We are proud that the Constitution we helped to create in 1972 prohibits laws which discriminate on the basis of race or religion; now this right to non-discrimination must be extended to Bahamian men and women. In strong democracies, citizens bear the same responsibilities and enjoy the same rights, whether they are male or female.
“Bahamians are being asked: should our sons and daughters be equal in our Constitution and under our laws? Our answer can only be yes; not only because democracy depends on this kind of equality but because we are fathers and grandfathers.
“We know that families provide the foundation for every strong society, and laws that divide families weaken our nation. Our sons and daughters, and our grandsons and granddaughters, should have the same opportunities, the same privileges and the same protections under the law.
“We urge Bahamians to reflect carefully and to be guided by the truth, not by fear and confusion. This is an historic opportunity, a moment for progress and celebration. Voting ‘yes’ is the right choice for our country, for our democracy and for our sons and daughters.”
The first Constitutional Amendment Bill would give Bahamian women who are married to foreign men the right to pass on their Bahamian citizenship to any child of that union no matter where that child is born.
The Constitution currently says that only Bahamian male citizens by birth have that right.
Bill two would allow a Bahamian woman married to a foreign man the right to secure for her husband the same access to Bahamian citizenship as a Bahamian male has in relation to his foreign wife. However this would not be automatic.
Bill three would grant any unmarried Bahamian man the right to pass on his Bahamian citizenship to any child he fathers with a foreign woman with proof of paternity.
The fourth bill has been mired in controversy due to belief from some quarters that a ‘yes’ vote would lead to same-sex marriage. The proposed change seeks to update Article 26 of the Constitution to outlaw discrimination based on sex, which means being male or female.
The government has strongly rejected the gay marriage argument, stressing that the upcoming vote is about gender equality.