Separate but equal is no compromise
by Joshua Correia
This is in response to E. McNeil Stovell’s Letter to the Editor on November 20, 2017, headlined “Gay people deserve rights but marriage is for men and women”.
First, I would like to thank Mr Stovell for the respectful tone in which he wrote his letter disagreeing with marriage equality. However, there are certain points in the letter I wish to respond to as a supporter of marriage equality.
You bring up the point of “two consenting adults” and are fine with intimate activities behind closed doors, but don’t believe marriage between a same-sex couple should be on the same level as an opposite-sex couple. Here you seem to focus only the idea of “intimate activities”. Marriage is not only about those activities; it is a celebration of the love two individuals have for one another.
If a couple, whether same-sex or opposite-sex, wish to celebrate their relationship, they should be allowed to use the term “marriage”. Equality under the law is at the heart of issue here.
You use the term “natural fact” in your letter. I’m assuming you mean — please correct me if my assumption is inaccurate — the literal definition for the word “natural” as found in an English language dictionary to mean “existing in nature” (www.meriam-webster.com/dictionary/natural).
In the natural world, there are at least 450 species in which homosexual behaviour has been documented (Bagemihl, 1999), with more recent work putting the number of species exhibiting homosexuality at well over 1,000. Homo sapiens (humans) are the only known species to exhibit social discrimination or who ostracise their fellow members based on sexual orientation.
This practice is more commonly referred to as homophobic behaviour. Pairing the definition of the word “natural” with the aforementioned fact, one can conclude that humans who identify as gay or bisexual are naturally occurring members of the species, while those who exercise homophobic behaviour towards their fellow human fall outside of the definition of the word “natural”.
Furthermore, in the animal kingdom, sex is not used merely for procreation. It plays vital roles in social development and cohesion for species. Your assertion that marriage is all about the “natural fact” of procreation is incorrect. Finally, on this point it would remiss of me not to mention that if marriage is based solely on procreation, then opposite-sex couples who cannot or choose not to conceive would fail to qualify for marriage. Attempting to use procreation as a basis for marriage is not only wrong, it creates more problems than it solves.
Turning the issue to politics, you place all the blame on the One Bermuda Alliance for this situation. Well, they are certainly part and parcel of the situation we find ourselves in; however, blame must be placed across the political spectrum on this matter. Both parties have failed to show adequate leadership on this issue, and quite frankly on any issue relating to the LGBTQ+ community. The referendum you mention did not show the will of the people. The question it attempted to answer remains unanswered because less than 50 per cent of the voting population took part in this frivolous and pathetic attempt by the OBA to pass the buck. The Domestic Partnership Act looks eerily similar to the OBA’s Civil Union/Partnership Act that was floated, dressed under a green banner as opposed to a red one.
The court did not draft legislation. The learned member of the judiciary, Charles-Etta Simmons, read the law in accordance with other required legislation. To protect people, the Human Rights Act has primacy over other legislation. Therefore, any legislation must be read in accordance with what is found in the HRA.
The HRA is an incredibly important piece of legislation for minority groups that may face a majority that does not support them, as is the case in Bermuda with the LGBTQ+ community. You state the court should not have ruled the way it did. I respectfully disagree. The court ruled the only way it could have in the case for marriage equality. The ruling ensured a minority group had its rights protected as required under the law. Mrs Justice Simmons did not make the law, as you state. She applied the law.
Failure to ensure that marriage equality remains in place demonstrates a lack of leadership by the Government in providing a supportive and safe environment for the LGBTQ+ community in Bermuda. It is well documented that LGBTQ+ youth have a higher instance of mental health issues, linked to internalised homophobia, and this can extend into adulthood for some. This situation is both created and exacerbated by living in and being exposed to environments that are not supportive or considered safe. We can only begin to reduce these numbers by fostering a safe and supportive environment for our LGBTQ+ youth to grow up in. (Williamson; “Internalised homophobia and health issues affecting lesbians and gay men”. Health Education Research, Volume 15, Issue 1, 1 February 2000, Pages 97—107.)
Your personal beliefs are yours to have and you are absolutely entitled to have them. While I may disagree with them, I will both respect and fight for your right to express those views. With that in mind, I ask that you please respect the right to my view.
No matter whence a difference of opinion comes, whether it based in religious dogma or from fear of allowing something different to happen, marriage equality needs to be the law of the land. The right to marriage should exist for both opposite-sex and same-sex couples. No legislation should be allowed to create separate-but-equal status under the law.
Such laws never reach their intended purpose of equality and work only to further divide the community.
• Joshua Correia, a member of Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda, holds joint Bachelor of Science degrees with Honours in human biology and law from the University of Hertfordshire (2014), and a Master of Science degree in human anatomy from the University of Edinburgh (2016)
Originally published in the Royal Gazette