By Travis Cartwright-Carroll
Nassau Guardian Staff Reporter
NASSAU, Bahamas -- Bahamas Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell once again took a stand for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues, adding that his political career continues to suffer because of his position on the matter.
Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell
“Nothing is more contentious than this issue in our politics that I now raise, given the religious aversion, and visceral reactions to discussion of LGBT issues in our region,” said Mitchell when he spoke recently at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago.
“Some people see it as striking at the very heart and fabric of our cultural identity. The Bahamas is not an exception to that aversion with many people seeing the discussion as a moral and religious one and not a human rights one.
“My own political career suffers because of my insistence that in this regard, like all other aspects of human life, there must be tolerance at a minimum and we must uphold the principle that the general rights for which we fought as being rights for all people, particularly as a formerly enslaved and indentured people, cannot be derogated from because of someone’s sexual orientation.”
Mitchell was giving a speech entitled ‘Saving CARICOM’ and touched on a number of issues.
“Do we as a society, for example, condone violence against people simply because of their sexual orientation?” he asked.
“The answer to that must be no. And if the answer is not no to that, then the charter (CARICOM) is not worth the paper it is written on.”
When contacted on Sunday to expand on his statement, Mitchell said it speaks for itself. He also retorted, when asked about attacks levied against him for his stance, that people in The Bahamas are entitled to their opinions.
Debate on homosexuality
Mitchell spoke on LGBT issues numerous times last year.
During a resolution on the passing of former South African President Nelson Mandela in the House of Assembly last December, Mitchell briefly touched on the issue while speaking on Mandela’s fight against HIV/AIDS.
“I think of this today as we hear from some of the people who have attacked me in this country, religious and civic leaders saying I am pushing a gay agenda in the country, as they give all the plaudits to Mr Mandela,” he said in the House on December 18.
“He was a great man, they say. I think and say now that it is never too late to do the right thing, to stand up for the rights of all people.
“These same people who condemn me but now praise Mr. Mandela, forget that he ushered in a constitution in South Africa that is perhaps the most protective in the world, where sexual orientation is amongst the list of characteristics for which there can be no discrimination in South Africa. Mr Mandela did that. Some in this country would have us go backward.”
It should be noted that Mitchell is not the only public figure to speak in support of LGBT rights in the country.
When he appeared before the Constitutional Commission last year, Anglican Bishop Laish Boyd recommended that the constitution be amended to reflect that no one be discriminated against based on sexual orientation.
Boyd noted that he is opposed to same-sex marriage.
When it reported its findings, the Commission chose not to recommend that discrimination based on sexual orientation be declared unconstitutional, instead noting that minority groups can be protected through ordinary legislation.
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian