By SANCHESKA BROWN
Tribune Staff Reporter
RETIRED Anglican Archbishop Drexel Gomez yesterday criticised some religious leaders for using “suspicion and fear” of same-sex marriage to “mislead” the public and campaign against the fourth Constitutional Amendment Bill.
In a statement, Archbishop Gomez said these church leaders allege, without offering any factual corroboration, that the use of the word “sex” in amendment four can provide a legal “back door” for the authorisation of same-sex marriage in The Bahamas, despite the fact that marriage does not, on any logical reading, form part of the rationale spelt out so clearly in the four amendments.
The archbishop said he supports all four proposed amendments to the Constitution and “strongly” urged all Bahamians to vote in favour of them.
“All right thinking Bahamians should therefore oppose legislation that authorises discrimination on the basis of being male or female,” he said.
“In addition, a ‘yes’ vote on amendment four cannot provide a legal authorisation of same-sex marriages in The Bahamas because our present Constitution at Article 26: 4, (8), authorises Parliament to enact legislation that discriminates in the spheres of marriage and family life, and the present Marriage Act passed by Parliament restricts marriage to a union between a man and a woman whose status as ‘male’ or ‘female’ is determined at birth. Consequently, well-thinking Bahamians must conclude that the obvious fear of same-sex marriage in The Bahamas as expressed by these church leaders is both unfounded in Bahamian law and in logical factual reading,” Archbishop Gomez said.
“Indeed, these church leaders are in my opinion obliged to present the Bahamian populace with an unequivocal legal path that leads from amendment four to the passage of legislation authorising same-sex marriages. Suspicions and fears are no substitute for legal evidence to support their claim.”
Archbishop Gomez also said the “fear of foreigners” should not prevent Bahamians from doing the right thing in support of equality for all Bahamians under the law.
“Some Bahamians have in the public discussion of the amendment bills, expressed support for the principle of equality before the law or all Bahamians, both male and female, but they feel compelled to vote ‘no’ because of the benefits that will be afforded to persons who are not Bahamians at birth by a ‘yes’ vote,” Archbishop Gomez said.
“In fact, these persons are being motivated by a fear of foreigners which clouds their reasoning. In the first place, since 1973 the foreign wives of Bahamian males have received citizenship and have been eligible to hold political office. This eligibility has not created any social dislocation.... there is an obvious, unfortunate need for the general public to be reminded about the sterling contributions made by so many non-Bahamian born persons to the development of the Bahamas especially in the areas of education, the judiciary, law enforcement, sports, religion, and commerce.”
Archbishop Gomez also urged Bahamian men to “study the facts and be guided by your conscience and not be influenced by any extraneous factors.”
“Please note that if you vote ‘no’ you will be telling the world that you are happy and content to be the recipient of certain constitutional rights while your Bahamian sister is denied these same rights under identical circumstances,” he said. “Surely, your conscience should lead you to recognise that such a position is unfair and unjust.”
He also warned Bahamian women that a “no” vote is a vote “against your own self-interest.”
“In so doing, you will be depriving yourself of the legal right to equality before the law. If you are not sufficiently concerned about your own status before the law, I urge you to give serious consideration to the status of your children with special reference to your female children who will, by your ‘no’ vote, continue to be discriminated against and denied equality under the law simply because they are female.”
Last month the Save Our Bahamas committee, made up of a group of pastors, launched a campaign against the fourth bill.
The group is urging people to vote “no” to question four in the June 7 gender equality referendum.
The committee has called on the electorate to “vote their conscience” on bills one, two and three; but urged voters against being duped by the government’s “diabolical” plot to allow for same-sex marriage under the guise of gender equality.
The committee said it was convinced, given the precedent set in other countries, that the fourth bill would open the door to legalising same-sex marriage in the Bahamas despite the government’s continued assurance that it would not.
The fourth bill seeks to end discrimination based on sex, which has been defined as being male or female. The other three bills deal with matters of citizenship.