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 theatre 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 passengers.
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 US State Department criticised 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.