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Rainbow Alliance Statement on Domestic Partnerships Act Passing Senate

The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda is disappointed but unsurprised at the passing of the Domestic Partnership Act by the House of Assembly and the Senate. This legislation creates a ‘watered down’ version of rights, leading to a separate-but-equal status under the law. Ultimately, no separate-but-equal measure allows for equality or justice.

Bermudian politicians on both sides of the aisle have failed to provide any kind of progressive, thoughtful, or justice-minded leadership on the issue of marriage equality. We cannot be surprised that this Act passed when many of the politicians today are the same people that sat silent in 2006 on the subject of Human Rights, and actively argued against the inclusion of Human Rights protection on the grounds of sexual orientation in 2013. There was a non-binding referendum on marriage equality and civil unions held in 2016, where the population of Bermuda failed to turn out in enough numbers to yield a definitive response. This was a colossal waste of taxpayer resources, and the rights of an oppressed minority should not be voted on by a majority that is not impacted by the outcome. The courts quickly filled this vacuum and affirmed in May 2017 that the love between two consenting adults is worth protecting with law, regardless of gender.

The Domestic Partnership Act exists to reverse marriage equality and to placate conservative religious lobbyists, who are wholly unaffected by the expression of love through marriage by same-gender-loving couples. This has been presented as the “better” alternative to a private member’s bill that would provide no legal framework for marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnership for these couples. We concede that legally this legislation is the bare minimum the Government must provide in accordance with the European Court of Human Rights. Having said that, to reverse marriage equality- which the courts decided was a service under the Human Rights Act- is a gross miscarriage of justice. A dangerous precedent has been set in creating exemptions from the protections of the Human Rights Act. Separate-but-equal domestic partnerships create an unfair hierarchical class system of unions.

There has been divisive and often-hurtful campaigning over the past few years, including homophobic and transphobic attacks on the humanity of LGBTQ people through intellectually dishonest and sometimes hateful propaganda. We are tired of having to prove our humanity, we are tired of accepting half-measures on equality, and we are tired of being used as a pawn in political discourse in efforts to garner votes by disingenuous elected officials with often-changing viewpoints.

There is still legally the possibility of the Governor of Bermuda refusing to sign the bill into assent, which would spark a constitutional crisis. The repercussions of that may be drastic and may inadvertently act against the LGBTQ community’s best interests.

We have heard many people say they are ashamed or embarrassed to be Bermudian. As a group of proud Bermudians, we want to affirm that we will never be ashamed of where we are from, only of the regrettable decisions of our elected officials. The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda believes in the principles of intersectionality and recognises that we must confront oppression in every iteration to find justice and equity for all. We hope that the Government will address issues that impact the entire Bermuda community with the same vigor that they pursued stripping away the rights of a minority group.

We hope to still welcome LGBTQ visitors to our beautiful island, but understand that many will refuse to travel in a place where they are seen as second-class citizens.

This fight has been long but we know that ultimately, love will win.

The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda is made up of a diverse group of young Bermudians that are involved in many areas of other social justice advocacy and community work. There are no official spokespeople and all statements are written collaboratively. The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda is not a charity and does not seek funding. For more information visit www.rainbowbermuda.org

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