Why “Save our Bahamas” won’t save our Bahamas

It’s been a long time since I posted to this blog. That is not because I haven’t been writing though. In fact, my topic today has kept me busy for pretty much two years now: our Constitution and the need to amend it. It’s kept me so busy that I wrote – and had published – two journal articles on the subject: “Citizenship as a Fundamental Right: How the Bahamian Constitution Mis-imagines the Nation” (IJBS 2015) and “Bahamian-ness as an Exclusive Good: Attempting to Change the Constitution, 2002” (IJBS 2016).

Opponents of the referendum currently scheduled for June 7, 2016, will have us believe that, in principle, they agree that women and men should enjoy the same constitutional rights in the Bahamas. Compared to 2002, that is progress. Yet they attack the proposals, by making emotional appeals to the widespread homophobia in the Bahamas.

Sadly, the media as well as the political leadership engage them in this discussion. However, this only fans the flames further. This discussion is non-sensical, and should not be given room in the current debate.

The current proposals are far from perfect, and while they will remove some constitutional equality, they will retain other elements of inequality – and they will even introduce new elements of discrimination to our Constitution. This is a debate we should be having. This is the debate I had hoped to encourage through my articles above. However, the noise of SOB’s* sobs drowns out any intelligent debate.

The currently proposed amendments do not pose the threat they are made out to be. What it boils down to is that misogynists in 2016 are simply too afraid to openly admit to being misogynists. But if the amendments do not pose the threat they are made out to be, then there is nothing that “Save Our Bahamas” can save the Bahamas from.

Here is my suggestion to Parliament on how to overcome the current dilemma of having a constitutional referendum about equal rights for women and men derailed by a proxy debate about same-sex marriage:

As both the Prime Minister as well as the Constitutional Commission have pointed out, the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1879 defines marriage in the Bahamas as a union between one woman and one man. As they have also pointed out, the Constitution allows marriage laws in the Bahamas to be discriminatory. As they have also pointed out, if furthermore allows laws passed prior to independence to be discriminatory. As they have also pointed out, it does not require a politically cumbersome referendum with an unknown outcome to change the Matrimonial Causes Act. A simple Act of Parliament could bring same-sex marriage to the Bahamas. It could easily do so before June 7, 2016.

Thus, I call upon the Prime Minister, the House of Assembly and the Senate to immediately pass legislation to allow for same-sex marriage in the Bahamas. Not only is it the right thing to do anyway, but this will demonstrate to the Bahamian electorate in general and the SOBs in particular that the upcoming referendum has nothing to do with same-sex marriage. It should then either make equal rights for women and men under our constitution a non-issue – or force the misogynists to admit to their misogyny.

* Their chosen abbreviation, not mine.

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