June 08, 2016
While one of the spokespersons for the Save Our Bahamas team last night asserted that the entire gender equality referendum was a fraud, that there was a hidden agenda and a conspiracy, and crowed about having stood against same-sex marriage, another "no" vote spokesman said the team would do all it could to "extend an olive branch" to those on the other side of the issue.
It appears the issue of same-sex marriage weighed heavily on the poll, and may ultimately have led many to decide against what the government has said was never a referendum on gay marriage.
After a two-year education process and costing a little over $1.3 million, Bahamians went to the polls yesterday in a constitutional referendum to answer four questions which the Christie administration insisted were about citizenship and ultimately equality between men and women before the law.
While it is too early to say what the relative level of voter turnout was at the poll, what is overwhelmingly clear is the staggeringly lopsided results.
The parliamentary commissioner has two days to certify the results, but the figures revealed yesterday, the vast majority of Bahamians who voted, voted no to all four of the questions on the referendum.
Bill one would have enabled a child born outside The Bahamas to become a citizen at birth if either his or her mother or father is a citizen of The Bahamas by birth.
Bill two would have enabled a foreign man married to a Bahamian woman to secure the same access to Bahamian citizenship that a foreign woman married to a Bahamian man enjoys.
Bill three would have allowed an unmarried Bahamian man to pass on his citizenship to his child born to a foreign mother subject to legal proof that he is the father.
Bill four would have made it unconstitutional to discriminate based on sex.
Bishop Walter Hanchell, CEO of Great Commission Ministries, spoke plainly.
"It is obvious that the Bahamian people have rejected the campaign of the "yes" vote. The people didn't believe it. The people didn't trust what they were saying. They listened to the other side, and they made an intelligent decision," he said.
"We are trying to preserve our country. The government should have come plain and been up front and said to the Bahamian people, 'Do you want same-sex marriage or not?' They didn't. They were given recommendations, they were given advice. They rejected all of the advice, and they just rammed those bills down the throat of the Bahamian people."
The bishop asserted that the Bahamian people are angry at the process, including that the government refused to fund the "no" vote.
"They had a hidden agenda," Hanchell said. "It was a conspiracy. They are under a mandate from the United Nations. It is documented. We didn't make this up. It is documented. In CEDAW.
"All our government has to do is be upfront with the people: do not deceive the people. The 'yes' campaign and the government have deceived the Bahamian people on this whole referendum. The entire referendum was a fraud. It was totally unnecessary, and it should not have happened," he said.
Hanchell said God had vindicated the "no" campaign and claimed the victory "for righteousness, for our families, for our children, for our future and for justice".
"We will not allow same-sex marriages and same-sex unions to come to The Bahamas," he said. "It is a major agenda in the UN. It's a major agenda in our country. But Bahamians, like the Jamaicans, will reject it; we will not allow it. We are better than that. This is The Bahamas, and we are a Godly people."
The bishop was careful to say the "no" campaign respects everyone, and doesn't hate "those who practice that lifestyle".
"We stood up for what is right; for righteousness in protecting our culture, our morals, and God has been faithful to us. God has given us the victory," Hanchell said.
Meanwhile, Pastor Lyall Bethel of Grace Community Church, an outspoken advocate for the "no" vote, struck a moreconciliatory tone.
"The Save Our Bahamas: vote no team is going to do all that we can to try to extend an olive branch to help persons to realize this is our Bahamas," Bethel said. "We always kept a decent tone. We didn't respond to these comments about us being unchristian and this and that.
"We're going to show a right spirit in reaching out and trying to bring some healing to the country, because it was foolishly divided over issues that could have been dealt with in Parliament anyway, and you've got to be intentionally blind not to know that bill four had a sinister agenda to it. I don't care how educated you are; Stevie Wonder could see it.
"You have our assurance that we're going to work very hard to try to begin to heal that breach. We're not going to gloat because there are people who really feel this, and they feel like, how could we be Christian and deny them this, but it's because they don't understand. They don't understand that we're not trying to deny them something; we just believe this could be handled better."
And Rev. Alfred Stewart of New Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church called the result "an answer to prayer".
"I believe the results are a result of divine intervention. I believe God put it in the hearts of the people to know his will, and that's what we prayed for, that God would put in the hearts of the people his will for our country, and how people ought to vote in this referendum," he said.
Stewart's conjecture was that the vote in New Providence went proportionately more "no" than in the Family Islands, and that this was because the "vote no" team was unable to get to the Family Islands to "explain what bill four was all about".
"[I am] totally confident, totally satisfied that the Bahamian people have decided to ensure that same sex-marriage does not come through the back door in bill number four," he said.
K. Quincy Parker, Guardian Business Editor
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