Last edited: July 16, 2004

Nasty Christians in the Bahamas

Reuters, March 9, 1998

MIAMI- A cruise ship that sparked a noisy, anti-gay protest in the Bahamas on the weekend was not chartered by a gay vacation group, the ship's operator said on Monday.

The vessel, the Veendam, left Miami early on Monday for a stop at Half Moon Cay, a remote Bahamian island, on the first stage of a seven-day Caribbean cruise.

"We obviously do not check on lifestyles of the passengers, but the ship is not chartered to a group that is comprised primarily of homosexual individuals,'' said Larry Dessler, a spokesman for Holland America Line, a unit of Carnival Corp.

Hundreds of placard-waving demonstrators took to the streets in Nassau on Sunday to protest the Veendam's visit.

The demonstration was similar to one in February when another chartered cruise ship, the Norwegian Cruise Line vessel Leeward, was headed to the Bahamas with a group of 900 gay vacationers.

Hours before the Sunday protest, Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham called a news conference to say that all tourists were welcome in the Bahamas.

Ingraham said he was reluctant to respond to the protest, but a call by the Christian Council ``to come out of the closet'' on the matter motivated him to meet with the press. He said he was ``chilled by the vehemence of expressions'' against gays.

"There have been expressions of reason and understanding on this matter on the editorial pages, but these have been largely lost in a sea of bitter, poorly reasoned diatribe,'' he said.

The weekend protest was led by Save the Bahamas, a group formed in February to protest the scheduled visit of the Leeward. Demonstators called on the government to acknowledge the "outrage'' of its citizens.

The group asked Bahamians to sign a petition calling for the reinstatement of sodomy laws, a ban on facilities for "sodomites'' and a ban on "open sodomites'' holding government office. It also called for the declaration of May 8 as a national day of repentance.

Ingraham said the Bahamas did not encourage or promote homosexual lifestyles, but "it does not condemn or exclude persons who reveal themselves to be homosexual.''

He said that the Bahamas, as a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, could not discriminate against people on the basis of their sexual preferences.

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