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Gay Marriage Probable–Dame Anita Allen warns against harmful rhetoric

Court of Appeal President Dame Anita Allen last night foreshadowed that the adoption of same-sex marriage in The Bahamas is quite probable due to a number of flaws in the country’s Marriage Act and she urged against the harmful rhetoric which she said dominated discussions during the recent Gender Equality Referendum.

Dame Anita, who presented a lecture last night at the Eight Annual Eugene Dupuch Distinguished Lecture Series at the British Colonial Hilton Hotel where she spoke on the topic: “Law in a Changing Society: Reconstructing Marriage,” said it will not be much longer before the courts are forced to addressed the issue of same-sex marriage in The Bahamas.

Her presentation came one week after Bahamians overwhelmingly rejected four amendment bills which addressed gender equality and ending discrimination on the basis of sex.

The issue of same-sex marriage dominated the discussion in the lead-up to last Tuesday’s vote and it is widely believed that a pathological fear of homosexuality contributed in large part to the defeat of the bills.

“The issue of whether non-traditional marriage is part of our marriage law may well boil down to whether there is a constitutional right to marry,” Dame Anita said.

“Consequently, I trust the issue will be debated with less acrimony and more tolerance than the issues in the recent referendum, and that proponents and opponents will desist from the homophobic, xenophobic and misogynistic rhetoric which characterised that debate; continuing in this vein will only lead to the kind of tragedies witnessed in Orlando this past weekend.

“Bahamian society has changed. We are now a multi cultural and multi faith society, in which many do not ascribe to Judeo Christian beliefs. And in determining the way forward it may well be necessary to give serious consideration to whether there is any longer any reason why the contours of contemporary secular marriage should continue to be shaped by Judeo Christian doctrine.”

She rejected the arguments from opponents of the Bill number four which sought to end discrimination on the basis of sex. However, this bill, opponents argued, opened the door to same sex marriage.

But Dame Anita held that adding sex to Article 26 and the attending proposed definition would neither have opened nor would it have closed the door to same-sex marriage.

“It had absolutely nothing to do with marriage,” she said.

“In fact, its amendment would have protected Bahamian men and women from discrimination in every area of the law except possibly in laws relating to marriage and other specified matters of personal law.”

Dame Anita said it is only a matter of time until The Bahamas too is faced with the problem of addressing same-sex marriage.

She said the issue could easily arise through work permits which sometimes all permit spouses to reside and then the questions she said will be – what is a spouse and who is a spouse.

“All of these things will be taxing the courts in the future,” she said.

“There is no substantive provision that says that marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman unless the common law is received.”

Written by Jones Bahamas

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