By Richard Ammon
Feb 6, 2011
The world’s largest cruise ship, Allure of the Seas, owned by Royal Caribbean sets sail with 5400 LGBT passengers in February 6-13 for a week of sun, fun, camaraderie and validation. Anyone who is shy about publicly showing their affection to their same-sex partner, friend or a new acquaintance should board this Atlantis Gay Cruises ship to the Caribbean without hesitation. It is truly a gay world during this week.
Yet, for all the merriment and celebration on ship, LGBT citizens still live in a larger world of homophobia at virtually every turn. And this great party ship will make a port of call at one such place–Bahamas.
Although homosexuality has been legal in the Bahamas since 1991, active homophobia clearly makes its voice (and laws) heard on the islands there. “Two specific aspects of the criminal code still discriminate against gay, lesbian and bisexual people. Firstly, the legal age of consent Bahamas to engage in homosexual conduct is eighteen years, while the legal age of consent to engage in heterosexual conduct is sixteen years. Secondly, a special provision of the criminal code defines and prohibits “public” gay sexual conduct differently then it does for heterosexual conduct.” Equality is not the rule here.
Further, the constitution of the Bahamas does offer prohibitions against types of discrimination but this does NOT does not include sexual orientation or gender identity. “Efforts to include sexual orientation in a new, revised Constitution have been blocked by members of the Government who oppose homosexuality on religious grounds.”
“On 21 March 2006 the Constitutional Reform Commission, which had been reviewing the country’s unamended 1973 Supreme Law for three years, presented a preliminary report to the previous Progressive Liberal Party government. The Commission indicated that equal treatment be afforded to citizens regardless of sex and gender. However, despite recommendations, it did not regard sexual orientation as an attribute deserving of any protection from discrimination.”
“The present Free National Movement government—voted into office on 2 May 2007—does not have the two-thirds majority needed to change the constitution. It would have to include the Opposition, whose Constitutional Commission rejected LGBT discrimination protection.”
“Discrimination in areas such as employment, education, housing, health care, banking and public businesses on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is not illegal. Likewise, there is no national hate crime law to address violence or harassment directed at LGBT people. In 2001, an Employment Bill was proposed which included a ban on discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation, but after much debate it was passed with that clause removed.”
But the most offensive and public display of homophobia in the Bahamas happened during the 2009 murder trial of a man who was allowed to use the highly prejudicial ‘gay panic’ defense argument to justify his killing of another man whom he claimed attempted to rape him. Despite his crime, the defendant was acquitted. Although this defense argument is now discredited in the statutes of Western Nations, no effort has been made in the Bahamas to remove this irrational plea.
If Atlantis (and Royal Caribbean) is serious about valuing its LGBT fan base of passengers, not just for the profits involved but for the higher issues of human rights and equality, it should think about landing at a different port of call (there are plenty) and telling the government of Bahamas of its actions–that when LGBT citizens have full civil and political equality with all other citizens, Atlantis will return with its passengers and their pink dollars.