Last edited: March 31, 2006

Anti-Gay Protesters Demonstrate as Lesbian Cruise Ship Docks in Bahamas

Miami Herald, April 13, 1998
1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132
Fax 305-527-8955 or 305-376-8950

By Lydia Martin
Knight Ridder Newspapers

NASSAU, Bahamas -- Hundreds of anti-gay demonstrators chanted "Go Home!'' Monday morning when a cruise ship chartered by a group of about 800 lesbians docked on the island.

"They kiss publicly and they hold hands publicly. They are in our streets and on our beaches. We are against any group, not just homosexuals, who are against our Christian principles,'' said Vaughn Miller, pastor of Nassau's Resurrection Tabernacle Church and one of the organizers of Save the Bahamas, a Christian coalition group lobbying for stricter sodomy laws and a ban on gay cruises.

It was the second time in four months that gay vacationers encountered a hostile reception in the Caribbean: Last December, the Cayman Islands government denied docking privileges to another gay cruise, forcing it to bypass the islands, saying it did not expect "appropriate behavior'' from the 900 passengers.

The Nassau protesters gathered in a square near tourist shops about a block from the dock, holding up signs that read "God made woman for man'' and "We don't want sissies.'' Most of the women aboard the SeaBreeze, which left Miami Sunday afternoon on a seven-day Caribbean cruise, steered clear. Instead, they took tenders into Blue Lagoon, a nearby private island where they snorkeled, played volleyball and stretched out in hammocks.

This was the 10th trip to Nassau for Olivia Travel, a lesbian charter company based in Oakland, Calif. Judy Dlugacz, the company's president, said the demonstration "won't deter us from anything. The truth is this is just a small group making a lot of noise. The government of the Bahamas has always been very supportive.''

Bahamian government officials had no comment on Monday, but Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham responded to earlier anti-gay criticism in a national address last month, declaring that "homosexuality is not a contagious disease, and it is not a crime in the Bahamas.

"Quite simply,'' said Ingraham, "it is not the role of the government to investigate and pass judgment on the sexual behavior of consenting adults so long as their activity is conducted in private.''

Dlugacz said it was the first time Olivia Travel has encountered protests. The company has organized cruises to the Greek islands, Bali, Costa Rica and Alaska, among other places.

Bahamas police estimated the crowd of protesters on hand when the cruise ship docked around 8 a.m. at 1,000. Others estimated the crowd at about half of that.

When eight of the SeaBreeze passengers decided to brave the demonstration and headed toward the straw market, the crowd turned and headed toward them, yelling "Go back. Go back.'' Five of the women turned and headed back toward the ship; three charged ahead, and were followed for several blocks by a group of six protesters.

"I'm angry, mostly. They're saying things about me and they don't even know me,'' said Karen Dorman of Philadelphia, who returned to the ship after she and two friends discovered most of the shops were still closed because of the early hour.

"But this isn't very different from what happens back home. You just have to ignore it.''

"Our money doesn't spend as well as everybody else's?'' asked Margaret Wilkerson, 41, from Newport, Ky. She and her partner, Brooke Vaughn, are celebrating their seventh anniversary aboard the SeaBreeze. For the past six years, they've been cruising with Olivia.

"We just wanted to go and see the town,'' said Vaughn, 53. "But this isn't going to spoil our vacation. This is our time for us, and we're going to have fun.''

A taxi driver who planned to take them into town tried to get some of the protesters who blocked the street to leave. "They're costing me,'' Dan Adderly said of the protesters. "They're not thinking about my table; they're only thinking about themselves.''

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