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‘Bermuda. Beautiful but ugly’

By Owain Johnston-Barnes, for The Royal Gazette

No warm welcome home: A Bermudian and her wife have found people to be less than accommodating on their return to the Island.
No warm welcome home: A Bermudian and her wife have found people to be less than accommodating on their return to the Island.

A same-sex couple was turned away from several rental apartments and treated with hostility by Bermuda Immigration, it has been alleged.

In a recent Facebook posting Jameka Smith wrote that she and her wife, Charlene, struggled to find a place to live when they recently returned to the Island.

“We couldn’t find an apartment to rent for several weeks as a result of several landlords not approving of a same-sex couple living in their rentals,” she wrote.

“One potential landlord was a high profile public figure.

“If I could name and shame all of them, I would. However my piece of peace has persuaded me otherwise. We have settled in the perfect cottage for our family and it’s a beautiful space.”

Ms Smith also wrote that they were repeatedly challenged by a staff member at the Bermuda Immigration Department, who refused to allow them to submit an application for a spousal letter.

“She was a very hostile clerk who I would really like to name and shame as she had a personal vendetta for us and boldly would tell us each time we attempted to submit the application that our marriage was not recognised in Bermuda and that our application will surely be denied,” she wrote.

“Only after seeking the services of a lawyer who was present with us on the fourth attempt to submit the application was the application submitted. We understand the application may be denied and we are ready to take our case to Supreme Court.

“Bermuda is a beautiful Island but it’s also a very ugly Island. Ugly with homophobes, bigots and ignorance-loving people who wish couples like us would disappear so they don’t have to tolerate us or respect us or understand us. Well, Bermuda, we are here and you will respect us.

“Charlene and I continue to remain strong and trusting of the Universe. We don’t have to remain here if we don’t want to as there is a big world out there, but we are here for a reason and a purpose.”

The posting was shared 16 times, with dozens of people commenting, expressing their support for the young couple.

Shari-Lynn Pringle said Ms Smith’s story was a demonstration of how far we still have to come as a country in the area of human rights, noting both the fight for equality and the fight to end conscription.

“If the Government of the day, the Opposition and Independents are truly interested in doing the right thing, they will collaborate on all issues of social justice to make sure their fellow Bermudians are being treated fairly and equally,” she wrote. “Being a quarter century behind others is not acceptable and if it is acceptable for you, step aside and let those that are truly progressive do the job.”

The Human Rights Amendment Act 2013, passed earlier this year, bans discrimination based on sexual orientation in regards to employment and the delivery of goods and services. However under certain circumstances — such as landlords who live on the property they are renting out — discrimination is not prohibited.

Spokeswomen for the Ministry of Community, Culture and Sports and the Ministry of Home Affairs were contacted regarding this story last night, but had not issued a comment as of press time.

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