Protesters Confront Gay Cruise Passengers
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
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
“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
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
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.