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The Save the Bahamas campaign staged a protest demanding that the government to ban all gay cruises

Bahamians protest arrival of lesbian cruise ship in continuing debate over gay tourism in Caribbean

April 14, 1998
Web posted at: 11:49 a.m. EST (1649 GMT)

NASSAU, Bahamas (CNN) -- Religious protesters waved placards and shouted slogans Monday as passengers from a lesbian vacation tour came ashore at Nassau's Prince George Wharf. About 300 members of a group called "Save the Bahamas," which formed after a gay male cruise ship was scheduled to dock in February, were on hand.

"I came here to show resentment to ... lesbians and homosexuals coming to our shores," said Barbara Taylor, a school teacher. "I saw with my own eyes two people kissing. I'm upset with the government for allowing them to come here."

The SS Seabreeze -- carrying about 800 passengers -- sailed from Miami and was chartered by the Oakland, California-based Olivia Cruises and Resorts, which caters to a lesbian clientele. Only about a dozen women came ashore in Nassau.

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Save the Bahamas formed in the heat of a growing controversy over gay cruises in the Caribbean. The debate began in December, when the Cayman Islands refused to allow a cruise ship carrying 900 gay passengers to dock. In February, the controversy erupted in the Bahamas over the planned landing of a gay cruise ship there. Bad weather kept the ship from docking, but the protests continued.

"If we accept gay cruises, what it says, in other words, is we accept homosexual lifestyle, and we accept homosexual practices in our nation, and then publicly we put a stamp of approval on it," said Mario Moxey of the Save the Bahamas campaign.

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Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said that homosexuality it is not a crime in the Bahamas, and that he will not ban gay cruises from visiting

The Bahamian government has taken a strong stand on the issue -- branding the protests as hysteria.

"The future of the Bahamas is not threated by a fallen person of homosexual orientation," said Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham. "Homosexuality is not a contagious disease, and it is not a crime in the Bahamas."

Save the Bahamas has called for Ingraham's resignation, and is seeking stricter laws prohibiting sodomy as well as a ban on gay cruises in the islands.

"In Western Europe and North America, this new order is most evident in the concerted drive to legalize same-sex unions," said Anglican Bishop Rev. Drexel Gomez. "Is the government of the Bahamas telling the Bahamian people that refusal to accept gay marriages is discrimination also?"

But Bahamians are not united against the government position. Some say the protests are wrong.

"It shows a total lack of tolerance, a lack of Christian charity, when members of the Christian council can get out there and do something that is totally un-Christ-like," said one woman.

Correspondent Jerome Sawyer and Reuters contributed to this report.

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