Last edited: March 31, 2006

Bahamians Protest Gay Cruise Ship

Associated Press, April 13, 1998

By Jessica Robertson

NASSAU, Bahamas - Waving signs reading "No gay ships,'' more than 100 Bahamians protested the arrival Monday of a cruise ship carrying lesbian passengers.

The demonstrators picketed the entrance to Nassau's port as 800 passengers walked off the Seabreeze I, a ship operated by Premiere Cruise Lines, and boarded a smaller boat for short trip at a nearby private island. The protesters wore T-shirts reading "Save the Bahamas.''

"We got enough sissies in the Bahamas - we don't need no more,'' one organizer said through a loudspeaker.

Police kept protesters at the end of the pier, away from the ship's passengers. Only a few of the tourists ventured into Nassau, and police said the protest was peaceful.

Although they had no contact with the demonstrators, passengers said they were fed up with the scorn heaped on them because their sexual preference.

"We're professionals with money to spend,'' said Suzanne Garcia- Lightbourn, a sign-language interpreter from El Paso, Texas. "If they don't want our money, Jamaica and Belize are just itching for it.''

Controversy over all-gay cruises flared in some Caribbean countries after officials in the Cayman Islands refused docking permission in January to a Norwegian Cruise Line ship carrying gay men.

Homosexual sex is illegal in the Cayman Islands, and the government said it could not count on "appropriate behavior'' from passengers.

The action brought a stern rebuke from Britain, the islands' colonial ruler.

The Bahamian government later welcomed the ship, but religious groups balked. "This foreign issue has sensitized us to the urgent need to attack the problem,'' said organizer Mario Moxey. "The foreign homosexual problem can only add to ours.''

Groups in the Bahamas had planned to protest another Norwegian Cruise Lines ship on March 6, but bad weather kept the ship from docking. A demonstration against a Holland America ship later that month was canceled after the company assured organizers it was not a gay cruise.

Monday's cruise was chartered by Miami-based Olivia Travel, a tour company that specializes in trips for homosexuals. The company has organized 10 cruises to the Bahamas without incident, said travel representative Judy Dlugacz.

Some Bahamians fretted the protests would hurt the country's economy.

"If the people there continue to do what they are doing, it will damage our tourism industry, and tourism is our number one source (of income),'' said taxi driver Ivan Campbell, who waited for passengers beside the cruise ship.

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