Categorized | National News

GBHRA Praises Gov’t Support for Gay Rights

President of the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association (GBHRA) Fred Smith, QC, praises the government for taking a stand on the world stage, against discrimination on the basis of sexual preference.

“The GBHRA would like, of course, to see a similar level of concern for human rights and international norms extended to the government’s current immigration enforcement policy, which has been criticized as harsh, discriminatory, unlawful and unconstitutional,” Smith said in a statement yesterday.

He noted that last week, the government contributed to the United Nation’s rejection of an attempt to stop the spouses of U.N. General Assembly staff who are in same-sex-marriages from enjoying the same privileges as traditional couples.

The policy, introduced by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, entitles all staff to receive the same family benefits, regardless of the laws on same-sex marriage in their own countries. The Bahamas was among 80 countries that opposed an effort led by Russia to block the policy; 43 countries supported and 37 abstained.

Coming on the heels of Prime Minister Christie’s comments on same sex marriages to College of The Bahamas (COB) students this week, as well as the repeated support of gay rights expressed by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell, the U.N. vote is further evidence of a concerted stance by this government against discrimination on the basis of sexual preference, according to Smith.

Christie told COB students that despite their conservative traditions, countries like The Bahamas must learn to “co-exist” in a world where attitudes to homosexuality are shifting.

“America has now legalized same sex marriages,” he said. “It’s happening. And so you have to assume therefore in the region we have this kind of discussion all the time amongst prime ministers about the conservatism that exists in our countries. How do we coexist in a world where the vice-president of the United States has said culture of countries do not trump human rights?

“Human rights are then elevated to the highest levels. And therefore you see the traditional norms of the world being changed and the levels of what was phobia are being rejected and are now becoming norms. Countries like The Bahamas have to look very carefully at it, not to change it, but how do you go about accepting it?”

Speaking in 2013 at a service for the late South African leader Nelson Mandela, Minister Mitchell said although the fight against Apartheid is over, “the struggle continues on other fronts, to defeat injustice and prejudice of every kind wherever it is and even in the face of unpopularity like today’s unpopular LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) cause.”

During an address to the University of the West Indies in Trinidad, Mitchell said though his political career has suffered because of his pro-gay rights stance, he believes “there must be tolerance at a minimum and we must uphold the principle that the general rights for which we fought as rights for all people, particularly as a formerly enslaved and indentured people, cannot be derogated from because of someone’s sexual orientation.”

According to Smith the GBHRA supports the government and would like to express its willingness to work with the Christie administration on any effort to enhance the protections and privileges extended to all groups that are marginalized and discriminated against in The Bahamas.

“We also urge all other parties in The Bahamas to learn a lesson in political bravery from the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP),” Smith said. “On this issue at least, it is standing on principle, regardless of prevailing public opinion. Sometimes, this is the only way real progress can be achieved.”

Written by Jones Bahamas

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