By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
EVANGELIST Rex Major added his voice to the chorus of pastors urging Bahamians to reject the fourth constitutional referendum bill yesterday.
Pastor Major, who served on the first Constitutional Commission created in 2002 by the first Christie administration, said members of that group grappled with the concept of “sex” at the time and recommended that an amendment be added to the Constitution enshrining a marriage as only between a man and a woman.
“I sat on the earlier commission which met from 2002 to 2004,” he said at a pastors’ forum on the referendum held at Evangelistic Temple.
“At that time we saw a weakness in the Constitution and we recommended that the only way to balance that and ensure there’s not a misuse of the word ‘sex’ as it relates to same-sex marriage was for a new amendment to be placed in our present Constitution stating without any confusion that the law of marriage between a woman and a man is the only form of marriage that the Bahamas would honour.
“But that has not been done. This particular group has taken the first part of that recommendation by the commission which wants to eliminate all kinds of discrimination but they’ve ignored the second part, which was hinged on making sure that ending discrimination in relation to martial affairs was not considered.”
Explaining how he believes bill number four could open the door to same-sex marriage, Pastor Major said: “Some people would easily say, since you don’t discriminate against anyone on the basis of sex, well ‘I’m a man and I want to marry a man and the only reason you don’t want me to marry him is because he’s a man so you are discriminating against me on the ground of sex.’ That opens the door for people to challenge the prohibitions. “But the stated, accepted definition of marriage that is in our law should be placed in the Constitution. There are laws now but they’re not in the Constitution,” he said.
Many proponents of the amendments categorically reject the idea that the fourth bill could open the door to same-sex marriage.
In a recent paper called “Bahamian-ness as an exclusive good”, Stephen Aranha, a professor at The College of The Bahamas (COB), pointed out that the Matrimonial Causes Act already prohibits same-sex marriage, adding that a constitutional amendment prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sex would not change this.
“…The Constitution exempts laws ‘enacted or made before’ independence from having to comply with the constitution’s nondiscrimination clauses,” he wrote.
Prime Minister Perry Christie has also cited the Matrimonial Causes Act as the reason why bill four would not lead to same-sex marriage.
Nonetheless, Pastor Major said he has made it his mission within the last year to warn to vote against bill four.