By NICOLE BURROWS
According to yesterday’s Tribune, ‘Loretta doubts ‘yes’ vote win’. But she also supports the YES vote. Because, in last Friday’s Tribune, ‘Butler-Turner: I stand with PLP over the referendum’.
Unless The Tribune reporters and editors are borderline schizophrenic, we are left to assume that Loretta Butler-Turner is both for and against the referendum. From either article, we can also deduce that, in principle, she supports the referendum and an accompanying YES vote, but she’s not happy about the way it has all unfolded for the voting public since it apparently originated with her party in the early 2000s.
Now, how can Mrs Butler-Turner’s existing doubt, as a most vocal female Bahamian politician, serve to create further support for the bill from the general public? Less thinking people who turn to the newspapers for what they believe is only ever gospel truth, by Monday’s headline alone, will not vote ‘yes’ and may, quite possibly, not vote at all. That is, assuming they are willing or waiting to follow Butler-Turner’s lead.
But here’s the thing: I doubt it will either. I doubt that the YES vote will win the support of a majority of Bahamian voters, causing changes to be made to the Constitution. It’s not that I wish a YES vote would not win the support of most voters … I support it in concept, but my lack of trust in the present government will probably mean I’d be less inclined to vote, if I could make it back there on June 7. And that’s a far stretch from where I once was on the whole issue of this referendum - vote yes to all, and quickly, was my position.
But after watching government officials and politicians beat the crap out of this process and all its offshoot issues, looking like lame deer in headlights after their multiple rounds of what I assume is engaging conversation, I’ve lost confidence in their own confidence in these referendum bills. They’ve run this through the mud and back, and not in a good way like my boy Exaggerator. All the supposedly intelligent people arguing over what the referendum is and what it isn’t and still coming up with very different positions on what it is and isn’t tells me that they themselves are uncertain of what it is or isn’t. And for those who are more certain than not, they are not exactly united on the topic.
And call me doubtful, but I get this sneaking suspicion that no matter what the vote, the existing government will paint the picture they want to paint anyway … in fact, they’ve already started to with the ‘YES Bahamas’ campaign.
My position is not political and I don’t take it because I think it’s payback time for the Progressive Liberal Party, as Mrs Butler-Turner suggests some others may. I’ve simply decided that I’m just not voting 100 per cent for anything I am not or cannot be 100 per cent confident about … not when constitutional changes are in the balance. At this point, I’d rather wait until the next ‘go round’ when a more sensible government voted in by a more sensible people will make it clear that that is what they want for their country. And, if they don’t, then they don’t deserve equality.
I don’t feel confident about what’s happening with this referendum, but I don’t think it is or care at all about a ‘gay agenda’. I do, however, care about wasting my time on what is unlikely to materialise in the way it should because it was poorly handled from the start.
If you knew you would at some point in the very near future want to bring a Constitutional Referendum to the people, as lacking as they already are in education about the Constitution (self included, and I am embittered by the fact that I didn’t even know what I didn’t know and no one in my early education saw fit to make it a part of my education … least of all a vital part), and as apprehensive as they are to be further educated in general, you present them first with a referendum which is not a referendum which they overwhelmingly oppose and you do the opposite with it instead of what you said you would, then forgive me, but it really is entirely your fault if their natural instinct right now is not to believe/have confidence in you, or follow your lead.
As the saying goes, can a leopard change its spots? Maybe an atypical leopard, but it has to first know it has spots to change.
To be frank, I don’t think this government will be the one to preside over these constitutional changes, other than by force … or forceful persuasion. It certainly won’t be by the will of the people who are in greater part relying on a steady stream of ridiculously mixed messages about the four bills to amend the Constitution and the referendum process itself.
You have the government trying to get a YES vote by campaigning with public money of the YES and the NO voters in order to get a YES vote. You have Wayne Munroe, once clearly on record as opposed to the bills now miraculously supporting them, in a radio advertisement no less. And not that the man is not entitled to change his mind, but who believes that he truly has? One of the reasons he offers for his switchover he says involves thoughts about his sister and niece and how it might affect them. But he had a sister and a niece before, like all of five minutes ago, when he made the first comments about voting NO on all the bills. How is it believable that he just recognised this possibility or the potential impact of the bills on his sister and niece had life dealt them another hand … learned man that he is?
And finally, in the poorest of taste, you have the Director of Immigration, William Pratt, voicing an advertisement in favour of the YES vote. How on earth? That right there tells me your government does not trust your ability to decide, does not believe you have a valid reason to vote NO, ie, non-democratic after all, and that it is ready to use any means necessary including playing the immigration card, using the man in charge of immigrants, to cause people with a vested interest in voting YES to vote YES.
To anyone, woman or man, (female or male), you can vote or not vote. That’s your right. And when you vote, you can say YES or you can say NO. That is also your right. My position may lean more towards YES than NO, at least on two of the four bills, but I’m fair enough a person to know and accept that if you say NO, with reasons that are not out of pure ignorance, and that you have informed yourself and made a rational decision, then you represent what democracy is meant to be. Let be what will be.
But I’ll tell you this much: if there are insufficient votes to support the proposed Constitutional amendments and somehow, some way, in spite of the fact that there is no way there should be, changes are made anyway, Christie et al need to let their feet hit their backs on the way out the door of leadership, never to return. Run fast and run far - and don’t look behind.
Furthermore, I don’t believe this Constitutional Referendum has anything to do with same-sex marriage, but I do believe it has something to do with establishing a baseline on sexual identity, because the foundation of the referendum is about a country treating people equally by law, no matter who they are or what they’re about, providing recourse for unequal treatment, when it comes to services and opportunities that should be equally provided, and outlawing any behaviour that seeks to cause harm to someone just because you don’t like their lifestyle.
For the record, and let’s get this out now so I can revisit from this point later, I’m not a supporter of a homosexual lifestyle. But that doesn’t mean I think you should beat up, mistreat, abuse or fatally harm a homosexual person for the mere fact that they are or say they are homosexual. You absolutely have no right to do that. As people of varying backgrounds, we will always have differing opinions about what is natural, normal, favoured, preferred, etc, especially when people engage their religious and cultural belief systems, but the point of the referendum is to establish that all are equal under the law and equally protected by the law, not to figure out how scary gay people are.
As for my full position on LGBT issues, I’ll save it for another article. I will only say this much in light of present discussions on the purported and feared ‘gay agenda’ of the referendum. When someone legitimately fears a gay person, or their lifestyle or sexual choice, and some people really do have this fear, that is a phobia. Whether or not it is rational is another matter.
What is not a phobia is a plain disapproval, which has nothing to do with grandiose fears of gay people taking over. I believe most rational Bahamians feel this way about this issue. To summarise, if I disapprove of what you do, whatever it is, for my personal reasons, I am equally entitled to take this position as you are to take another. If I find something unacceptable for my own reasons and I don’t endorse it, it doesn’t mean I fear it.
To say that someone is frightened by gay people, because he/she disagrees with many of their viewpoints, in all fairness, is completely irrational. But more on that later.
Send email to nburrows @tribunemedia.net