April 4, 2006

Bahamas bans “Brokeback Mountain”

By John Marquis

NASSAU, Bahamas (Reuters) - The Bahamas has banned the gay
cowboy movie "Brokeback Mountain," triggering a new controversy
over the island chain's reputation for homophobia.

Gay rights groups and other critics called on the Plays and
Films Control Board to think again, so far to no avail.

"I cannot understand denying people the right to make their
own choices," said theater director Phillip Burrows.

The award-winning 2005 film about two cowboys who fall in
love got the thumbs-down from the control board after a request
for it to be banned from the Bahamas Christian Council, which
has been involved in previous anti-gay action.

The ban does not come as a surprise to Bahamians.

Last September, Miss Teen Bahamas was stripped of her title
after she admitted to being a lesbian.

Four years ago, employees walked off the job at an isolated
resort cay in the Bahamas after a shipload of gays arrived. The
disgusted workers described carnal scenes on the beach as "like
Sodom and Gomorrah" and refused to work until they had gone.

In 2004, Christian groups led a protest against the
Norwegian Dawn cruise ship, which had docked with 1,600 gay

Rallied by the Save the Bahamas Initiative, which maintains
that family values are undermined by gay couples, hundreds of
demonstrators waved banners saying, "If you're gay, stay away,"
and "Even animals have more sense than homosexuals."

The 2004 protest did not repeat the violence of 1998, when
lesbian couples were chased off Bay Street, Nassau's main
shopping thoroughfare, by furious protesters and the mooring
ropes of a visiting gay cruise ship were tossed into the sea.

In its 2005 Country Report, the U.S. State Department
criticized the Bahamas government for actively promoting
opposition to homosexuality.

"Although homosexual relations between consenting adults
are legal, there was no legislation to address the human rights
concerns of homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals or trans-gendered
persons," said the report, released last month.

A gay rights organization, the Rainbow Alliance, has called
for tolerance and last year opened an office in Nassau.

"We hope this will become a center for social change," said
member Helen Klonaris.