Last edited: July 16, 2004

Protesters Confront Gay Cruise Passengers

The Scotsman, July 17, 2004

Gay and lesbian cruise ship passengers were confronted by more than 100 protesters holding signs and chanting anti-gay slogans as they stepped off their chartered ship in the Bahamas.

The protesters, led by Christian pastors, gathered in a square in front of the Nassau cruise terminal yesterday and chanted: “Gay ways are not God’s ways!”

As a trickle of passengers stepped out, protesters waved signs saying “If you’re openly gay, stay away” and “We will not bow to the gay agenda!”

Former talk show host Rosie O’Donnell, a cruise promoter, was aboard the Norwegian Dawn but was not among those who disembarked.

Gregg Kominsky, a founder of cruise organiser R Family Vacations, said the passengers—1,150 adults and 450 children—had come to have fun and that on previous trips he found most Bahamians friendly and welcoming. “We are not really here to make a statement,” he said.

Kominsky said he was disappointed by the protest but people had a right to their opinions.

As the first passengers stepped out, shouting protesters pressed to within a few feet of them. Police stepped in to move demonstrators back.

“We will never accept your lifestyle,” said Pastor William Hanchell, who stood on a stage and spoke publicly.

“We don’t care how much money they bring. The Bahamas is off-limits,” said another, Pastor Vaughan Miller.

Organisers said the demonstration was intended to be peaceful, and there were no arrests.

Homosexuals have faced icy receptions in the Caribbean before. A number of islands have laws banning gay sex and many countries remain socially conservative.

In 1998, a protest was held in the Bahamas when a ship arrived with lesbian passengers. That same year, the Cayman Islands turned away a gay cruise following protests.

Yesterday’s demonstration was held by a group calling itself “Save the Bahamas”, which led an earlier anti-cruise rally with several hundred people last Sunday.

The US Embassy issued a statement on Thursday saying the mostly-American passengers deserved the right to visit in peace.

While scores of passengers disembarked, many stayed on the ship.

O’Donnell’s partner, Kelli O’Donnell, got off and greeted members of the Bahamas’ Rainbow Alliance, a gay and lesbian group. She helped found R Family Vacations, which promoted the seven-day cruise that began in New York on Sunday and also made stops in Florida.

Some passers-by disagreed with the protesters. “I don’t have a problem with gay people coming to the Bahamas,” DeAndre Rahming said.

But passengers Stacey and Jessie Paris, of New Jersey, said they did not feel welcome on their first trip to the Bahamas.

“It’s very, very sad,” Stacey Paris said. She came with her biological daughter, 15-month-old Torin, and adopted son, Zion, four.

When reporters asked how they felt about the protest, Stacey turned to Zion, who was wearing a T-shirt that read: “Let my parents marry” and asked: “What do we call people like that?” He replied: “Narrow-minded” and hugged Paris.

When the couple tried to walk through the protest, pushing a stroller, protesters told them to avoid the area, and they did.

After a five-hour stop, the ship left for New York.

[Home] [World] [Bahamas]