June 22, 2011
As many Bahamians remain divided on the issue of gay rights in light of a recent United Nations Human Rights Council vote, some of them may find U.S. diplomats' views on Bahamian sexual attitudes telling. A U.S. diplomatic cable obtained by The Nassau Guardian through WikiLeaks described Bahamian culture as one that "celebrates heterosexual prowess", while still proclaiming its "overt religiosity." "Bahamians also wryly acknowledge their compartmentalized religious beliefs, commemorated in a popular Bahamian ballad recounting the shortcomings of the 'Sunday Christian' who weekly repents their previous six days of sinfulness," the cable asserted. Bahamians who came out publicly against gay rights were also described as more "loud" than "violent." This opinion was espoused shortly after plans were announced to protest the arrival of thousands of gay cruise ship passengers and their families in Nassau on July 16, 2004. The passengers were traveling on 'The Norwegian Dawn'. When news of a counter-protest by gay rights organization Rainbow Alliance at the same time and location was also announced, U.S. officials asked Bahamian law enforcement personnel to commit extra resources to ensure the safety of American tourists But the cable noted that The Bahamas has a "peaceful culture where the fire and brimstone generally stays verbal rather than physical." However, despite the feeling that those planning to protest were merely posturing, the U.S. Embassy still prepared meticulously for any unrest, monitoring media coverage of the upcoming events. In preparation, officials at the U.S. Embassy also made contact with the Ministry of Tourism, former Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) president Dr. William Thompson and now retired Anglican Archbishop of the West Indies Drexel Gomez. "The newly-elected (BCC) had been taking a more modulated stance on many issues since taking office, including homosexuality, than did the previous administration," claimed the cable. "When contacted...on July 14, Reverend Dr. Thompson...said that he stands by his 'don't ask, don't tell' policy," the cable reported. The cable claimed Thompson said the council welcomed anyone to The Bahamas but did not want visitors to "push their beliefs" on Bahamians. According to the cable, Gomez told a U.S. Embassy official that he saw "no advantage or benefit" to demonstrating against the visit. The cable said that then Prime Minister Perry Christie found himself "between a rock and a hard place on this controversy." "He owes his election to the active intervention of the conservative end of the Bahamian Protestant religious spectrum. He also knows that 60 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) depends on tourism," the cable noted. "The (conservative) churches who were his main backers in the last election expect some payback." The cable further commented: "The Free National Movement opposition is enjoying watching him squirm and doing its best to tighten the screws by repeatedly calling upon him to take a principled stand." There was a moderate protest when the cruise ship arrived, but there were no notable developments. The Bahamas recently came out squarely in favor of the right to choose sexuality being a human right and the U.N. decision to condemn discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
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