By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
FNM Deputy Leader Loretta Butler-Turner yesterday urged the government to clarify key elements of the Constitutional Amendment Bills to ensure the equality referendum on November 6 is successful.
Mrs Butler-Turner pointed to the final Bahamas Constitution Bill, which would insert the word “sex” into Article 26 of the Constitution to make it unconstitutional to discriminate based on whether someone is male or female.
The proposed change has sparked public discourse highlighting concerns of whether same sex marriages would be made legal despite Prime Minister Perry Christie’s assurance during the tabling of the four Bills in the House of Assembly nearly two weeks ago that lesbian and gay marriages would remain illegal.
“We really need full clarity on this matter,” Mrs Butler-Turner told The Tribune. “To me if we look at the fourth Bahamas Constitutional Bill the insertion of the word “sex” presents a challenge because it creates ambiguity and opens us up to same sex marriages. During the debate in the House and during the educational campaign, I am hoping that the general public is able to learn and get a better understanding of what the change means for us. But we must clarify in order to have this Bill get the support of the electorate.”
Mrs Butler-Turner further insisted that the government address the government’s plans not to make the first Bahamas Constitution Bill 2014 retroactive. The Bill would enable a child born outside the Bahamas to a Bahamian woman to have automatic Bahamian citizenship at birth. However, the government does not plan to have the clause operate retroactively.
The government will grant Bahamian citizenship to all applicants born abroad after July 9, 1973 – and before the law changes – to a Bahamian-born mother and non-Bahamian father, subject to the exceptions and in accordance with procedures already prescribed by law.
“This question of retroactivity: the government doesn’t plan to have the bill be retroactive. Well I feel as though women and their children for generations to come are being placed at the mercy of Cabinet ministers.”
Debate on Constitutional reform was scheduled to begin in Parliament last week. However, it was delayed following the Opposition’s request for an additional week in order to hold consultations with supporters and constituents on the Bills. Opposition leader Dr Hubert Minnis told The Tribune yesterday that FNM MPs will be ready for House discussions tomorrow.
Other Bills to be debated include allowing a Bahamian woman who marries a foreign man to secure for him the same access to Bahamian citizenship that a Bahamian man has always enjoyed under the Constitution in relation to his foreign wife.
And the remedy of the one area of the Bahamas’ Constitution that discriminates against men based on gender. Presently, an unmarried Bahamian father cannot pass his citizenship to a child born to a foreign woman.
The Bill would give an unwed Bahamian father the same right to pass citizenship to his child that a Bahamian woman has always had under the Constitution in relation to a child born to her out of wedlock.