Thu | Aug 13, 2020

Government to appeal historic Bahamian court ruling on citizenship

Published:Wednesday | May 27, 2020 | 5:22 PM

NASSAU, Bahamas, CMC – The Bahamas government has hinted at filing an “immediate” appeal against a ruling by a Supreme Court judge that anyone born in the country to either a Bahamian mother or father is entitled to citizenship at birth, regardless of the parents’ marital status.

Attorney General Carl Bethel said that the ruling on Tuesday by Justice Ian Winder “has sufficient public importance to warrant an immediate application.

“The ruling is very interesting. It will be appealed in the public interest,” he added.

The ruling contradicts the longstanding requirement that children born out of wedlock to Bahamian men and foreign women must wait until 18 to apply for citizenship.

The ruling could impact the immigration status of many people in the country.

Winder said the legal position “must be that every person born in The Bahamas after July 9, 1973, shall become a citizen of The Bahamas at the date of his birth if at that date either of his parents is a citizen of The Bahamas, irrespective of the marital status of the parents at the time of birth”.

His ruling hinged on whether Article 14(1) of The Bahamas Constitution is applicable when interpreting Article 6, which states “every person born in The Bahamas after 9th July 1973 shall become a citizen of The Bahamas at the date of his birth if at that date either of his parents is a citizen of The Bahamas.”

Article 14(1) notes “any reference in this chapter to the father of a person shall, in relation to any person born out of wedlock other than a person legitimated before 10th July 1973, be construed as a reference to the mother of that person.”

The government had argued during the trial that “the clear interpretation of Article 14(1)…is that it applies to any provision that is capable of including the father”.

But the judge ruled that Article 14(1) should not be applied to Article 6, noting “Article 6 was clearly intended to be expansive, as reflected in the opening words ‘every person’".

“Article 6 was intended to afford an automatic right to citizenship in circumstances where one parent was a Bahamian citizen. The application (or misapplication) of Article 14(1) to Article 6 would take away that opportunity from the child born out of wedlock to access citizenship where one of his parents may be Bahamian,” Winder said.

The judge has adjourned to July 29, another matter regarding the applicants in the case who include children purportedly born out of wedlock to Bahamian men and Jamaican and Haitian women.

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