April 28, 2016
PASTOR Lyall Bethel yesterday questioned if someone coached members of Bahamas Transgender Intersex United (BTIU) to appear ambivalent about the outcome of the gender equality referendum so as to not shed light on the “hidden agendas” of the fourth constitutional amendment.
Speaking about BTIU’s call for equal rights for members of the transgender and intersex community, Pastor Bethel said a move in this direction could open a “black hole that we can never see the end of”. He added that once the government starts discussing these “extreme” views, any “off the wall” group would try to make their lifestyle seen as normal.
He also urged the Christie administration to “make its position clear” amid growing concern from some observers that the fourth bill would open the door to same-sex marriages. He stressed that the bill’s wording gives the impression that special rights are obtainable by any minority group that feels it is being discriminated against.
Pastor Bethel’s comments came on the heels of the launch of BTIU’s equality campaign, “Bahamian Trans Lives Matter”.
On Tuesday, BTIU representatives called on the Christie administration to ensure that the fundamental rights of all genders of Bahamians - male, female and transgendered - are protected through law.
The group further claimed that they weren’t in support of or against any of the amendments proposed for the gender equality vote. However, Pastor Bethel said their current position of “it doesn’t matter to them” does not “hold water. He said members of the group attended the House of Assembly in March to hail the passage of the bills.
Pastor Bethel added that their original position gave the impression that they saw value in the bills and therefore supported the four amendments.
In March, transgender woman Torri Culmer told The Tribune she believed if the referendum is successful, it would help members of the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
Pastor Bethel on Wednesday said the change in position by the group has raised red flags.
“Now, them saying that they don’t have a horse in the race on this matter seems somewhat disingenuous. Nothing changed since the bills were announced. They were there in Rawson Square cheering these bills then. Why the change all of a sudden?
“Is it them understanding that their support would shed light on the hidden agendas of bill four? Or is it someone in the ear telling them to publicly distance themselves from yes vote campaign?”
Pastor Bethel said transgender and intersex people possess rights on par with every other Bahamian.
“If they were born as a man, that is the rights that they have; so is the case if they were born female.
“The minute the government starts to (discuss) these extreme views, any and every off the wall grouping of people would set out to make their beliefs and practices the norm in this country,” he added.
“What is next? If a person wants to become a cat, are we then expected to bow down and grant that right to them to act and live beyond the social and religious confines? It is unfair for them to demand that we adapt our laws to fit their beliefs.
“They are demanding healthcare and rights in that regards, are we as taxpayers supposed to fit the bill for their hormone treatment and procedures moving forward? This is why I make the point - we can’t start the process of granting such rights because it will become a black hole that we can never see the end of.
“This is why the government has to clarify this matter. The issue of gender equality has many unanswered questions that need to be addressed,” he added.
The Grace Community Church pastor said his comments ought to be viewed as his “personal stance” and not the official position of the Save Our Bahamas committee, a group that has launched a campaign against the fourth bill.
Meanwhile, in a statement released by the YES Bahamas campaign on Tuesday night, the group stressed that the referendum will not address the specific issues of BTIU.
The statement also responded to LGBT rights advocate Erin Greene, who has said she is voting no to bill four because it does not address intersex issues.
“While the yes campaign is building a broad coalition of support, we are not surprised by BTIU and Erin Greene’s objection to the amendments,” the group’s statement read.
“The issues BTIU is advocating for are not represented in these amendments, which would give Bahamian men and women equal rights to pass on citizenship to their family members, and would enshrine in the Constitution the right of men and women to have the same opportunities and the same protections in our laws.”
YES Bahamas said it welcomes the opportunity to clarify again that none of the amendments on the referendum ballot would pave the way for same-sex marriage nor bestow any new rights to the LGBT community.
Tori Culmer, right, speaking yesterday at the Transgender and Inter Sex Community press conference at the British Colonial Hilton. Also pictured is, left, Alexus D’Marco and Phylicity Smith. (Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune Staff)
By Ricardo Wells, Tribune Staff Reporter
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