By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Deputy Chief Reporter
THE Trump administration’s pick for United States ambassador to The Bahamas, Doug Manchester, seemed to speak favourably of the newly elected Minnis administration yesterday, telling the panel at his Senate hearing “it really looks bright” in The Bahamas.
He said officials stationed at the US Embassy in Nassau, including Chargé d’Affaires Lisa Johnson, have said this much in his discussions with them.
This was part of his response to a question from Republican Florida Senator Marco Rubio who asked Mr Manchester for his position should The Bahamas’ support “waiver” regarding its vote at the Organisation of American States (OAS) for democracy in Venezuela.
He said The Bahamas has consistently voted with the US for this cause.
“It’s a new government down there with a new beginning,” Mr Manchester said. “I salute their democracy. They have recently had a great election. New people are coming into power according to all of the people that I have talked to, including our chargé (d’affaires) and our existing embassy staff down there, that it really looks bright and as I said, the greater America becomes the greater benefit it’ll be for The Bahamas.”
During the hearing before the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Mr Manchester also insisted he was not anti-gay, as he expressed support for the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender community. Senator Bob Menendez had pointed to Mr Manchester’s previous position regarding this issue, prompting him to state for the record that he was “certainly” in “support (of) gay and lesbian marriage”.
In 2008, Mr Manchester donated $125,000 to support a ballot initiative, known as Proposition 8, blocking same-sex marriage in California, according to The New York Times.
The newspaper reported the hotelier “donated the money to support the collection of signatures to qualify the initiative, which would amend the state’s constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage” for a vote later in 2008.
Earlier this year, ahead of the May 10 general election, several local pastors petitioned US President Donald Trump to revoke any US executive orders and policies that enable the promotion of same-sex marriages in the Caribbean region as part of its foreign policy.
The clergymen, including Grace Community Church Pastor Lyall Bethell and Pastor Allen R Lee, president of Teleios Theological Training Institute, in a letter to President Trump claimed that in recent years the policies of the US State Department and other government agencies involved in foreign policy have attempted to “coerce” countries in the Caribbean region into accepting a “mistaken version of marriage.”
Pointing to former US President Barack Obama’s threat last year to pull federal funding from American states over entry to bathroom and locker room access based on gender identity, the pastors claimed this same kind of “coercion” was being used against Caribbean countries to fall in line with the same-sex marriage agenda.
Pastors Bethel, Lee and other Bahamian clergymen were signatories to a petition dated January 31, 2017, which also bore the names of 289 clergymen from around the region, including those from Trinidad and Tobago.
In response, local, lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) activist Alexus D’Marco said it was with “horror” and “disgust” that the LGBTI community learned of the actions of these Christian ministers.
The basis of pastors’ arguments for the criminalisation of homosexuality and opposition to gay marriage has been dispelled and put to rest by the courts in the United States, she said.
Same-sex marriage is now legal in the United States.
The post of US ambassador to The Bahamas has been vacant since 2011, with the previous nominee Cassandra Q Butts having died as she waited more than two years to be confirmed to the post under the former Obama administration.
Ms Butts, 50, died in May last year, but was nominated for the ambassador post in 2014 by former US President Barack Obama. The confirmation was held up by Republicans in the US Senate.