Gays Advocate For Marriage Equality

A homosexual Bahamian man who left the country several months ago to marry his long-time love in Canada yesterday said The Bahamas needs to follow the lead of countries that have legalized same-sex marriage.

Mindell Small, who was an equal rights activist while he lived in New Providence, recently married his male partner.

Small spoke in an interview with The Nassau Guardian after Chief Justice Sir Michael Barnett predicted over the weekend that the Bahamian courts will soon have to address the issue of same-sex marriage.

Same-sex marriages are legal in Canada where Small now lives with his husband.

Small said he does not intend to move back to The Bahamas because of the discrimination that he faced because of his sexual orientation.

However, he added that he and his husband intend to purchase a vacation home on one of the Family Islands.

While he said the legalization of same- sex marriage may seem far fetched, Small said he believes it will happen eventually.

“If you look at the overall trends around the world, it’s inevitable,” he said. “The UK has been debating it and so has France.

“So countries around the world are realizing that if you love somebody then you should be allowed to get married to the person who you love.

“It’s like you can’t tell a heterosexual to marry someone of the same sex and vice versa. You can’t expect a homosexual to marry someone of the opposite sex because it is not in their nature. It’s going against what they feel.

“And you know the situation where married men eventually find out that that’s not what they want and they were forced to do it and they go on the down low. So why have it where people are running and hiding and also running away from their country?”

Small said many Bahamians have left the country to get married.

“I know of some personally,” he said.

“It’s just a natural progression of what you would want to do anyway because if you are in a relationship and you realize you’re in a country that doesn’t even recognize the relationship you would want to get out of there and go to a country that actually respects your relationship.”

Erin Greene, a human rights activist, who has championed lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-gender (LGBT) rights for years, said she also knows of many couples who left the country to get married.

“[They] decided to live in a jurisdiction that would allow them to celebrate their union, but at the same time we know of couples who got married in The Bahamas,” she said yesterday.

“In the local community we had couples married in a church that was willing to marry them… A church is a non-governmental body, so a church can do what it wants. We have married gay couples in the country…because there are churches who are willing to do it.”

However, the state does not recognize the union.

“A gay couple that got married within the church may want to say to the government that ‘we are married and we’d like a license acknowledging our marriage’,” Greene said. “That’s the real issue, that each citizen should have equitable benefits to the resources of the country.

“And the churches’ decision not to recognize a union should not prevent the government from carrying out its obligations to its citizens.”

Greene said that based on her interpretation, same-sex marriage is not specifically prohibited on the law books.

Greene said if the issue does go to court, she believes that the LGBT community has a good chance of winning.

“The Bahamas is a part of a legal community. We are a Commonwealth country… A decision made in another Commonwealth country may be persuasive on our judiciary and may in fact force our hand,” she said.

Sir Michael said on Friday that the courts would consider judgments made in other countries if the same-sex issue is ever considered locally. He said it is only a matter of time before the matter will come up in Bahamian courts.

“I also have no doubt that in deciding the issue we will have respect for the decisions that emanate not only from the Commonwealth countries like Canada and Australia, but also from decisions of the courts of the Unites States of America,” he said.

“But our references to the views of justices of the United States are not limited to referring to those decisions in our own judgments.”

He added: “Our task as justices is helped by looking to our colleagues of different countries to see how they have considered and dealt with the problems.”

Greene said homosexuals are not asking for special rights, but equal rights.

Small, meanwhile, said he is enjoying the married life in Canada and hopes that The Bahamian laws will soon catch up.

By Krystel Rolle
Guardian Staff Reporter