Nevis: We welcome gays ... as long as theyre clothed


NEW YORK -- Officials on the Caribbean island of Nevis scrambled to dismiss charges of homophobia a week after a gay nudist cruise was denied docking rights by port police.

Island officials and cruise organizers differ as to specific details of the incident but agree the Polynesia, a Windjammer Barefoot Cruises ship chartered for Gay Naturists International, diverted to nearby St. Barts on March 23 after port officials from Nevis boarded the approaching ship, took the captain ashore for talks and then ordered him from area waters.

Tourism Minister Malcolm Guishard said that Nevis government has no problems with gays and lesbians and that the ship was turned away to comply with local laws against public nudity.

Were a friendly society that doesnt discriminate and, unfortunately, word has gone out that we banned a group from coming ashore simply because they were gay, he said. But we have had gay cruises before, and well have them again.

Guishard said port officials told him that the ships captain said he could not guarantee passengers would obey anti-nudity laws once on land. He also said islanders had complained of public lovemaking by gay nudist visitors in the past.

But Craig Smith, president of Source Events, the Miami company that chartered the ship on behalf of the group, claimed the captain was told explicitly by port officials that homosexuality was illegal and considered immoral on the island. 

Smith, one of the 110 passengers aboard the cruise, said the captain had assured officials that all passengers would remain clothed while ashore.

Whats upsetting is that there was no violation of Nevis law, he said. My sense is that this wasnt a strict nudism or gay issue, but the two together. It seems officials had made their decision before we arrived.

Helen Kidd, CEO of the Nevis Tourism Authority, said overzealous port officials may have allowed personal, anti-gay beliefs to influence how Nevis law was applied.

An individual [official] may have expressed his own opinion [about gays] in public without giving any thought to the implications, she said. But it in no way reflects what we feel on the island, where we have an open policy regarding all tourists.

Guishard, who met with the Windjammer captain on March 30, said he regretted the incident and was devising a plan with tourism and port officials to ensure this type of thing doesnt happen again.

To contact reporter Kenneth Kiesnoski, send e-mail to [email protected].


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