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LGBT rights in the Bahamas

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Social situation Edit

Homosexuality is legal in the Bahamas and there are no prohibitions on gays serving in the police and military forces.

However, there is widespread homophobia in the country, evidenced in the 2005 de-crowning of a lesbian beauty queen and the 2006 banning of the American gay-themed movie, "Brokeback Mountain."

More recently, in September 2007, the Bahamas Christian Council formed an anti-gay committee to fight against a gay group after it asked the local cable company to offer Logo, which caters to the LGBT community.

Then on Oct. 6, 2007, police raided a gay cruise party in downtown Nassau but could not arrest anyone as no crime was committed. The cruise company demanded an apology. A few days later, on Oct 10, 2007, two anti-gay activists appeared on a conservative radio station (Gems 105.9 FM) and called for the re-criminalization of homosexuality. The most vocal activist, Clever Duncombe, said he would "kill" homosexuality wherever he finds it.

Because of these strong anti-gay stances, most gay people in The Bahamas are afraid to live open, honest lives. The vast majority of the gay population is in the closet, and as such, don't expect to see any annual gay pride street parades or publicly noticeable signs of an organized gay community.

Homosexuals could be confronted with anti-gay remarks if they express themselves openly, i.e. coming out publicly or holding hands on a public street. Reports of violence against gays and lesbians are rare but religious-based verbal attacks are not.

In fact, any person disobeying established gender roles in dress and mannerisms could be subject to jeering. On the other hand, openly gay persons such as members of the gay-rights group, "Rainbow Alliance of The Bahamas" have been applauded on talk shows and in newspaper articles for speaking against discrimination.

The Bahamas has a tourist-based economy and the government targets a variety of markets, but not the growing gay tourism market. Individual and small groups of homosexual tourists are left alone for the most part but boatloads of gay visitors have been protested on three separate occasions - once on March 8, 1998, a month later on April 13, 1998 and again on July 16, 2004. However, the Rainbow Alliance held a counter protest during the 2004 demonstrations, welcoming the gay visitors.

Legislation Edit

Homosexual relations between consenting adults were legalised in The Bahamas in July of 1991. The age of consent is 18. But since 1991, no legislation has been passed to address the human rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender (GLBT) people. There was a glimmer of hope in 2001 when the Employment Bill was proposed. The Bill sought to bar discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation but, after much debate, it was passed with that clause removed.

In addition, the Constitutional Reform Commission, which had been reviewing the country’s unamended 1973 Supreme Law for three years, presented a preliminary report to the previous Progressive Liberal Party government on March 21, 2006. The Commission indicated that equal treatment be afforded to citizens regardless of sex and gender. However, despite recommendations, it did not regard sexual orientation as an attribute deserving of any protection from discrimination.

The present Free National Movement government - voted in on May 2, 2007 - does not have the two-thirds majority needed to change the constitution. It would have to include the Opposition, whose Constitutional Commission rejected GLBT protection. However, the FNM could enact anti-gay discrimination legislation if it wishes.

Gay marriage Edit

Gay marriages are not legal in The Bahamas. Homosexual rights groups have not challenged the country's marriage laws, which assume that a couple is a man and woman. But despite the lack of government sanctioning, same-sex unions and commitment ceremonies have been privately performed by several pastors and Justices of the Peace for years. However, they are now running the risk of being exposed.

On August 27, 2006, a pastor who had written many articles against homosexuality in The Nassau Guardian daily newspaper held a “Help Save the Family Rally” in downtown Nassau. The purpose of the rally was to oppose same-sex civil unions and marriages. Hundreds of people attended the event and signed a petition calling for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages in The Bahamas. Several cabinet ministers were also in attendance but they made no such constitutional motion in parliament.

Then on September 21, 2006, a lesbian complained to The Nassau Guardian after reportedly having paid an exorbitant fee to marry her long-term partner. The story got the attention of the president of The Bahamas Christian Council who warned that criminal charges would be brought against clergymen found performing gay marriages.

Gay nightlife Edit

Gay bars have existed in The Bahamas for at least four decades. Today, there are four gay-owned nightclubs in the capital, Nassau. The most famous club, which entertains heterosexual patrons on certain nights, is located near the Cable Beach resort area.

Gay nightlife in Freeport, Grand Bahama however, is not as vibrant. Homosexuals in the less-populated northern city usually hang out in straight clubs.

References Edit

1. Bahamians protest arrival of lesbian cruise – CNN April 14 1998

2. Bahamians protest Rosie O’Donnell’s Gay Family Values cruise – TTGapers - July 16, 2004

3. Gay queen stripped of crown - Nassau Guardian - September 8, 2005

4. Bahamas bans Brokeback Mountain - BBC News - March 31, 2006

5. Gay marriages exposed - Nassau Guardian - September 22, 2006

6. Pastor denies performing gay marriages - Nassau Guardian - September 27, 2006

7. Pastor denies performing gay marriages – Freeport News - September 27, 2006

8. Pastor holds anti-gay marriage rally in Freeport – Freeport News - March 19, 2007

9. Christian Council against LOGO channel - Nassau Guardian - September 29, 2007

10. Verbal attacks on gays continue - Nassau Guardian - October 03, 2007

11. Police raid gay cruise party - Nassau Guardian - October 09, 2007

12. Gay group demands apology from police - Nassau Guardian - October 11, 2007

13. Ministry of Tourism apologizes to gay tourists - Nassau Guardian - October 16, 2007

External linksEdit

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