The wording of the four Bills in the Constitutional Referendum
Bill 1: Approval of alteration to Article 8 and the repeal of Article 9 of the Constitution.
Do you approve of The Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2014?
Under the proposed change to the Constitution, a child born outside of The Bahamas would, after the coming into operation of this amendment, become a Bahamian citizen at birth if either its mother or father is a citizen of The Bahamas by birth.
Yes [ ] No [ ]
Bill 2: Approval of alteration to Article 10 of the Constitution.
Do you approve of The Constitution (Amendment) (No 2) Bill, 2014?
Under this proposed change to the Constitution, the foreign spouse of a Bahamian citizen would, after the coming into operation of this Article, be entitled to apply for and obtain citizenship subject to satisfying:
(i) existing national security or public policy considerations; and
(ii) new provisions guarding against marriages of convenience.
Yes [ ] No [ ]
Bill 3: Approval of alteration to Article 14 of the Constitution.
Do you approve of The Constitution (Amendment) (No 3) Bill, 2014?
Under this proposed change to the Constitution, a Bahamian father of a person born out wedlock after the coming into operation of this amendment would be able to pass his citizenship to that person subject to legal proof that he is the father.
Yes [ ] No [ ]
Bill 4: Approval of alteration to Article 26 of the Constitution.
Do you approve of The Constitution (Amendment) (No 4) Bill, 2014?
Under this proposed change to the Constitution, it would be unlawful to discriminate based on “sex”, which would be defined as “being male or female”.
Yes [ ] No [ ]
By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Perry Christie last night urged voters to support Tuesday’s referendum, insisting that the idea of a “hidden agenda” involving the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community “is crazy.”
He stressed that gay rights were “not on the ballot” adding that he hoped Bahamians would grow tired of the “paranoid” voices in this debate.
He also hit out at what he called “defamatory” statements made about him by Dame Joan Sawyer, who suggested recently that he has advocated for a LGBT agenda.
His statement came a day after he told a crowd in Bimini that religious groups who have recently taken issue with the referendum were given adequate time to review the four Constitutional Amendment Bills prior to their passage in the House of Assembly.
In a last ditch effort to clear up ambiguity on the referendum, Mr Christie’s statement on Sunday night said it is important to understand what is on the ballot and what is at stake.
“The only question before the Bahamian people is whether as citizens of our nation, men and women should have equal rights,” Mr Christie’s statement said. “The first three bills would change the Constitution so that Bahamian men and women would have the right to share citizenship with their family members in the same way. The fourth bill would give both Bahamian men and women a new right to be treated equally under our nation’s laws.
“The idea that there is a hidden agenda is crazy,” the statement added. “Perhaps the most compelling evidence of there being no hidden agenda lies in the fact that the selection of the gender equality topic was at the insistence of the Official Opposition, whose leader made it clear that the only basis upon which he would extend the support of his party for a bipartisan campaign would be if the first round of constitutional reform was limited to the gender equality issue. In that circumstance, only mischief-makers, who seek to distract and detract from the importance of equality for our sons and daughters, could suggest that the government is moving in furtherance of a hidden agenda.”
Mr Christie’s statement said while there is no legal basis to support the theory that bill four would lead to same-sex marriage, he understands the concern coming from a small, Christian nation.
However, he stressed that in spite of what is happening around the world, “we must not have same-sex marriage in our country.”
“I would not be supporting bill four if it would change marriage in the Bahamas,” the prime minister’s statement said. “Contrary to the egregiously false and defamatory statement made by Dame Joan Sawyer, I do not and have never advocated for an LGBT agenda. It is wrong and unfair to associate me with such a thought.
“In fact, bill four will offer new protections in our Constitution to our law that says marriage must be between a man and a woman. The top lawyers in our country worked carefully with the religious leaders in the Christian community to ensure that bill four would not change marriage, and as a result, bill four has the support of the leaders representing nearly 80 per cent of the nation’s Christian community.
So, those who continue to spread fears are now being reckless with the future of our children and grandchildren.”
Mr Christie said he hoped Bahamians would not listen to “paranoid” voices but instead focus on the stories of those who have been disadvantaged by the inequality in the Constitution.
“So, I want all the citizens of this nation to be clear – gay rights is not on the ballot, politicians are not on the ballot, judges and lawyers are not on the ballot. The only thing on the ballot is you - your rights, and the rights of your sons and daughters. The only question you have to answer is: should our sons and daughters be equal as Bahamian citizens, in our Constitution and under our laws?
“As a people with a legacy of suffering from racial injustices, it is my hope that we will not turn our backs on this opportunity to expand rights and dignity in our beloved Bahamas.”
A day earlier, Mr Christie told a crowd in Bimini that his administration did all it could to ensure that every sector of society had an opportunity to review the constitutional bills and give recommendations, including members of the religious community.
Mr Christie went on to stress the magnitude of the looming vote, saying: “Once it is done, it is done.”
“The leaders of church groups… sat in my office and (were) given every opportunity to say what they had to and they heard me say what my positions are,” Mr Christie said on Saturday. “So for me and this Commonwealth of the Bahamas, I say to God be the glory.
“The government of the Bahamas, twinned with the opposition party of the Bahamas, at every step of the way we agreed together on matters. Then we brought to the church, the whole church and gave the full church an opportunity to sit in a room with us to make whatever observations they wanted,” he added.
“I have taken this opportunity to urge all citizens regardless of political or religious persuasion to vote ‘yes’ to all four amendments in the interest of deepening our traditional democracy, ensuring equal rights for all, strengthening of families and the realisation of our full potential as a progressive nation through the exercise of our God-given rights.”
The Christie administration has endured heavy-criticism for its handling of the referendum to date.
Opponents of a ‘yes’ vote have pointed to flaws in the wording of the amendments, particularly as it relates to bill four.
Mr Christie has gone on the defensive on several occasions to defend the constitutional bills, at times making his frustrations with the ordeal known to members of the press.
Early last month, Mr Christie insisted that same-sex marriage would never happen in the Bahamas during his lifetime, adding that he was “almost embarrassed by” this line of thinking over the referendum.
His statement came as debate raged over the implications of bill four, which some have said would open the door to same-sex union within the Bahamas.
On Saturday, Mr Christie addressed the conjecture surrounding the four constitutional bills, highlighting that they were “simply calculated to ensure that our sons and our daughters share equally under rights in our Constitution.”
Advance polls for the referendum commenced last Monday across the country and at various international locations.
Last week, Parliamentary Commissioner Sherlyn Hall said only 43 per cent of the people eligible to vote in the advance poll in New Providence turned up.