June 17, 2016
Pastor Lyall Bethel
THE failure of the June 7 constitutional referendum on gender equality was the result of the numerous missteps on the part of the Christie administration, according to Pastor Lyall Bethel.
In a presentation to the members of the Rotary Club of West Nassau, the Grace Community Church senior pastor said the government’s refusal to apologise for its actions during the 2002 gender equality referendum and overwhelming distrust in government proved to be the undoing of the Christie administration’s quest for a “yes” vote.
Pastor Bethel on Thursday presented a detailed, 10-point document on why he felt the referendum failed.
First, he said the government oversold the status of gender discrimination in the country.
“The reality of the status of women in the Bahamas came flooding back to your mind and you could see the card hidden in the magician’s sleeve. Two women have been governor generals, a (deputy prime minister), the majority of the permanent secretaries, (heads of) most of the major banks and financial institutions, school principals and teachers.”
“Many, many professional women approached me before and after to say that they did not buy this argument as they have never felt discriminated against.”
Secondly, Pastor Bethel said the elitist nature of the vote “yes” campaign proved to be too off putting.
The YES Bahamas campaign was spearheaded by current Senate President Sharon Wilson and former Senate President Lynn Holowesko.
“Their public relations team figured that if we can get both FNM and PLP women, successful, gifted, eloquent speakers, that would settle the issue of the truth of gender discrimination. I am sure it looked good on paper and sounded pleasing to the ear, but what the general public saw was pampered, privileged women who could not relate to their day-to-day struggle talking about issues far removed from their day-to-day experience.”
Thirdly, he said the government’s attempt to divide the church based on the “haves and have nots” played a crucial role in spurning potential Christian voters.
“Sadly one or two of the ‘graces’ chosen to use that occasion to question the Christianity of anyone who would oppose the bills. As they later would find out most of their congregations did not accept their evaluation of the matter and certainly did not believe that they could speak for them in this matter,” he added.
Pastor Bethel’s fourth point was built around the growing distrust the public had for the government due to its “double speak” and previous handling of gender equality matters. He noted that the prime minister had at one point shared a view that the Bahamas had to “co-exist” with global views on homosexuality and then on a later date, seemingly backtracked.
This, along with the government’s treatment of those who opposed the referendum, the PLP’s stance on the referendum in 2002, and even the symbols used on the ballots during the referendum all contributed to the vote’s failure.
“God hates dishonest scales; you’ve been weighted in the scales and found wanting,” he said.
He said the public commentary by members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community also did “grave damage” to the fourth Constitutional Amendment Bill.
He also said insults levelled at members of the electorate who were planning to vote “no”’ almost guaranteed the failure of the referendum.
The four referendum questions were overwhelming rejected during last week’s referendum.
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