THE Privy Council affirmed Chief Justice Ian Winder’s landmark citizenship ruling on Thursday, declaring that children born out of wedlock to Bahamian men are citizens at birth regardless of their mother’s nationality.
The constitution was previously interpreted as not automatically conferring citizenship to such people; until now, they had to wait until the age of 18 to apply for citizenship.
The landmark ruling paves the way for the Davis administration to amend the Bahamas Nationality Act to further equalise access to citizenship, an objective it said it would pursue once the Privy Council rendered its judgement on the narrower citizenship issue.
Thursday’s ruling came from a case now-National Security Minister Wayne Munroe, KC, won in 2020.
The plaintiff in the case, Shannon Rolle, 24, has since become a citizen through the normal application process, but in 2021 he told The Tribune it was challenging waiting so long.
“Some people turn into murderers and thieves when they find out how hard it is to get a passport when in this situation,” he said at the time.
“You can’t even get a McDonald’s job without a passport.”
In a statement issued this morning, Prime Minister Philip "Brave" Davis said: "In light of the Privy Council's recent decision to uphold the landmark judgement made by Supreme Court Chief Justice Ian Winder in 2020 (Shannon Tyreck Rolle and 4 others), I would like to express my support and commitment to ensuring that our country's laws and policies are fair and just for all Bahamians.
"This ruling affirms that children born out of wedlock in The Bahamas to biological Bahamian fathers and foreign mothers are citizens of the Bahamas at birth and do not have to wait until 18 years old to apply for citizenship.
"The Privy Council's decision marks an important step towards ensuring equal citizenship rights for all children, irrespective of their parent's marital status. It is expected to impact the lives of many individuals in our nation positively.
"As Prime Minister, I am dedicated to building a more inclusive and equitable Bahamas. My government will work diligently to implement the Privy Council's decision and review the existing citizenship legislation to align with this new development.
"Together, let us strive to create a Bahamas that embraces the principles of equality, justice, and unity, where each person's rights are respected and protected under the law."
A statement was also issued from the Attorney General's Office. It said: "The Attorney General's Office acknowledges the Privy Council's decision to uphold the judgement in the landmark ruling made by Supreme Court Justice Ian Winder in 2020 Shannon Tyreck Rolle and 4 others. This decision affirms that children born out of wedlock to Bahamian fathers and foreign mothers are citizens of the Bahamas at birth and do not have to wait until they are 18 years old to apply for citizenship.
"The ruling is an important step towards ensuring equal citizenship rights for all children, irrespective of their parents' marital status. It is expected to impact the lives of many individuals in our country positively. The Attorney General's Office will work diligently to ensure the implementation of the Privy Council's decision and to review the existing citizenship legislation in light of this new development.
"We would also like to take this opportunity to remind the public that the government remains committed to addressing other citizenship issues, including granting automatic citizenship to children born abroad to married Bahamian women and their foreign husbands. The government will continue its efforts to create a fair and just citizenship framework for all Bahamians."