Thursday, June 30, 2011

Bahamas: Many Bahamians have an irrational fear and hatered of homosexuals... It is not popular to support homosexuals in any way in The Islands

Parties views on gay rights appropriate

thenassauguardian editorial

Nassau, Bahamas

Many Bahamians have an irrational fear and hatered of homosexuals. It is not uncommon in this country to encounter people having conversations advocating for violence against homosexuals.

Such hostility is unfortunate. Homosexuality is a normal phenomenon in human societies. A certain small population of every human community is gay. Some display homosexual inclinations as children, suggesting they were born gay, and others come to this place later in life. Homosexuality is not new and it is not rare.

We therefore should all be reasonable enough and accept that homosexuals are people entitled to the same protection under the law as heterosexuals when it comes to discrimination. Certainly, no sensible person should assert that a person should be fired, beaten or molested for being gay.

The United Nations Human Rights Council resolution affirming equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people, passed earlier this month, is a positive progressive step.

The resolution, which narrowly passed in the council 23 to 19 with three abstentions, expressed “grave concern” about discrimination against gays throughout the world and affirmed that freedom to choose sexuality is a human right. Surprisingly, when asked about the issue, both the Free National Movement (FNM) and the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) supported the resolution.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Brent Symonette said the government supports the expansion of rights for “people of any persuasion.”

Opposition leader Perry Christie said the resolution is humane and therefore his party is in favor of it.

“I think from our point of view we understand the sensitivity of this matter,” said Christie, adding that the PLP has “always been committed to progressive policies — policies that emphasize our commitment to human rights.”

The parties demonstrated maturity by taking the public stands they did. It is not popular to support homosexuals in any way in The Bahamas. However, at times public officials must lead debates of conscience and not merely follow ignorant popular views.

The Christian church in The Bahamas has been vocal in its opposition to the more welcoming attitudes towards homosexuality that are being demonstrated in developed western societies in recent years. The church, as is its right, has affirmed that homosexuality is a sin.

The Bahamas Christian Council (BCC), in its release after the UN resolution, said it supports the protection of everyone from all forms of discrimination. However, it warned that The Bahamas government’s support of the UN resolution could open the door to all rights afforded heterosexuals to be offered to GLBT people, including marriage.

“We in the Christian church firmly believe that marriage is between a man and a woman — period. As imperfect as that might be at times, it is between a man and woman — full stop,” said the BCC.

For now the issues are separate. The step the Bahamian political parties have taken by embracing the resolution is simply to state that they support the right of homosexuals to live their lives free of discrimination based on their sexual orientation.

This should mean that the parties will not support laws or practices that discriminate against gays.

As the Bahamian democracy evolves, however, the parties will be confronted with more difficult issues. The law in democracies usually evolves through citizens challenging discriminatory practices via the court. The court, which is entrusted with the responsibility of protecting minority rights, has to determine if statues violate the broad principles of liberty enshrined in democratic constitutions.

Courts around the world have forced the hands of legislatures when it comes to gay rights. Some have argued that laws declaring that marriage is between one man and one woman discriminate against homosexuals. Hence, the old way is ruled unconstitutional and gay marriage is allowed.

Homosexuals understand that their fight for equality, as it was for blacks, has to be won one step at a time. As the homosexual lobby becomes more organized in The Bahamas and it understands that the court can help its cause, The Bahamas may be forced to accept gay marriage, gay adoption and further normalization of homosexuality.

Human societies are fickle – norms are always changing. Who knows what will be acceptable in The Bahamas a century from now. A century ago the thought of blacks and whites being equal and then ‘inter-marrying’ was offensive to many. Now, interracial marriage is a non-issue.

A century from now maybe Mr. Smith marrying Mr. Smith on a beach on one of our islands too may be normal.

Jun 29, 2011

thenassauguardian editorial