By SANCHESKA BROWN
Tribune Staff Reporter
DNA Leader Branville McCartney fears that one of the constitutional amendment bills could “pave the way” for same sex marriage in the country – an issue his party would not support.
At a press conference yesterday Mr McCartney said the DNA supports the upcoming referendum because equal rights for Bahamian women have “been a long time coming.” However, he said the government must re-word bill four of the constitutional amendments and make it as “simple as possible to avoid other things, like same sex marriage” from being introduced.
However, when he introduced the bills in the House of Assembly last month, Prime Minister Perry Christie stressed that the bill in question would not make gay marriage legal. According to the Prime Minister, the bill seeks to end discrimination based on sex. This involves the insertion of the word “sex” in Article 26 of the Constitution so as to make it unconstitutional to discriminate based on whether someone is male or female.
“We in the DNA believe that the time has come and gone when Bahamian women should have the same rights as Bahamian men,” Mr McCartney said. “There are no ifs, ands and buts about it. This is 2014 and we live in a country where Bahamian women are discriminated against. Something is wrong with that.
“But we need to make it simple and be careful of the word gender because from a legal point that could mean quite a number of things. Gender could mean a number of things when you talk about gender equality, it could lead to same sex marriages. If the wording is wrong it allows for that type of thing.
“Now whether or not the country is ready for that or wants that is a whole different question but the question today is women having the same rights as men. So before this government gets it wrong, which they usually do, please let’s word it correctly so that our Bahamian women have the same rights as Bahamian men. Let’s make it simple. Please don’t try to sneak anything else in there.”
When asked if his party would support the legalisation of same-sex marriage in the Bahamas, Mr McCartney said no. “Our party is based on the principles of the Bible. I do not believe the God Almighty intended men to marry men and women to marry women.”
As he introduced bill four in the House, Mr Christie sought to allay possible fears that the amendment could lead to gay marriage in the Bahamas.
“I should caution, however, that this bill makes it clear that the existing exceptions will continue to apply,” the Prime Minister said last month. “In particular, this bill will not make same-sex marriages lawful. Such unions are already treated as void under the Matrimonial Causes Act and the genesis of this particular legal position pre-dates the Independence Constitution. This will not change under the proposed amendments to Article 26.”
Debate on the four bills is expected to begin today.
The first 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.
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.
The third bill seeks to remedy 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.
The referendum is set for November 6.