[Opinion column written by U.S. Consul General to Bermuda Robert Settje] The Government of the United States supports and promotes lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender [LGBT] rights.
The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda is a collective organization which supports fights for equity across a variety of issues, and we are therefore supportive of efforts to address problems of gender inequities. The statement regarding a National Gender Policy remains too vague for us to substantially comment on the policy itself, but we hope that in making the policy the government ensures that the public are broadly consulted on the issue. In a world where people are still systematically discriminated against and oppressed because of their marginalized gender identities, efforts to address gender equity are necessary, and must include women, men, and those that fall between and outside traditional categories.
A truly progressive policy will recognize that such a policy necessarily requires the recognition of the broader context in which gender oppression occurs, including the intersections of class, race, sexuality, ability, gender identity/expression, and age. A holistic approach, accounting for all of these factors, is absolutely necessary if the government is to make any real change for Bermudians affected by oppression based on their gender.
Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda
The comments Deputy Mayor of Hamilton, Donal Smith, made on the ISSUES program regarding homosexuality were riddled with offensive and derogatory language towards members of the LGBTQ community and their allies. Moreover, these comments showed a marked ignorance of LGBTQ issues and an overarching tone of homophobia. Comments labeling a group of humans as “freaks” display a strong antipathy towards those he summarily dismisses as unworthy of the protection of the law and are founded on ignorance: this is homophobia.
The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda remain proponents of an individual’s rights to free speech. You can have strongly-held religious or moral viewpoints without resorting to offensive and hurtful attacks on an entire community. This is an inappropriate way for an elected official to speak about anyone, and we await Mr. Smith’s apology.
By Chen Foley
This opinion was originally printed in the Royal Gazette on Saturday, 6 September 2013.
I think this is unprecedented in Bermuda. 79 religious leaders – I counted, there were 79 – set aside their doctrinal differences and joined together, united they said, to declare what we already knew: they’re not cool with gays, and they think the gays are out to convert them.
The Bermuda Sun posed the following questions to the Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda, which were reported here. Below is the entirety of our response to the questions regarding the UFC Ad.
WHAT IS THE RAINBOW ALLIANCE OF BERMUDA’S VIEW OF THE RECENT ADVERT PLACED BY CHURCH GROUP UNITED FOR CHANGE (UFC)?
The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda would like to acknowledge the respectful manner in which Dr Gibbons and the Seventh Day Adventist Church spoke on the topic of homosexuality during the ISSUES program. They offered open arms to all individuals, which is in-line with the Rainbow Alliance’s focus on providing safe spaces for the LGBTQ community.
We agree with Marc Bean’s assessment that same sex marriage is inevitable in Bermuda, but reject all heterosexist assertions that such an event will cause moral disruption. The PLP has not yet arrived at a party position. The official position of the current government was clarified a few weeks ago by Premier Craig Cannonier, who has stated that marriage equality will not be pursued while he is in power. Premier Cannonier’s leadership is not permanent, and Bermuda will continue to take steps towards equity for all citizens, regardless of sexual orientation.
Bermuda has a long way to go in addressing the heterosexist and sometimes homophobic attitudes displayed in reaction to the recent Human Rights Act amendment, which will remain a cause that the Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda will campaign for through education and outreach. The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda will continue its focus to provide safe spaces for the LGBTQ community members and allies.
The past month has surely been exciting for Bermuda’s LGBTQ community! Bermuda’s Government finally made the decision to amend the Human Rights Act to include sexual orientation as protected grounds from discrimination in terms of employment, goods and services and housing.
Here’s a timeline of some of the events that have led up to this point:
Bermuda, 18 June 2013 - The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda, would like to applaud the government’s decision on Friday, June 14th, to pass the amendment to the Human Rights Act to prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. We are proud of all the brave voices who spoke in favour of the amendment and of protecting the fundamental human rights of the LGB community.
This legislation would not be possible without years of campaigning by countless activists and groups, particularly Dr. John Stubbs, Two Words and a Comma, Centre for Justice, the Allen Vincent Smith Foundation, the Human Rights Commission, and Amnesty International Bermuda. The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda sincerely thanks all of these allies.
Based on the emotional, confused, and sometimes offensive tenor of the debates that took place surrounding the amendment, it is evident that there is still work for us to do in the Bermudian community to combat homophobia, improve understanding, and address misconceptions. The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda will continue this important work, while continuing to provide safe spaces for the LGBTQ community members and allies. The LGBTQ community will not be shamed, silenced, or condemned and we hope to work together to create equity for all of Bermuda’s citizens.
To me, NOH8 is about more than equality, it’s about humanity.
As a collective of people supportive of the inclusion and recognition of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) community in Bermuda, the Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda are encouraged by the OBA’s pledge to amend the Human Rights Act (HRA) to include sexual orientation and age as grounds for protection from discrimination. The expansion of the HRA to acknowledge and prevent discrimination faced by people based on their sexual orientation is a crucial step towards making Bermuda a more inclusive and accepting community and it has our full support.
The amendment of the HRA has been consistently promised since 2004 and has yet to come to fruition. The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda urges the government to follow-through with this legislative change as quickly as possible. Combating discrimination requires more than just a change in the law, it requires an adjustment of attitudes which we hope to see modeled by the leaders of our country and community. The time has come where homophobia should not and will not be tolerated from anyone, particularly from our role models.
The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda will continue to campaign for further policies to combat homophobia and transphobia. The Bermudian LGBTQ community experience discrimination based not only on their sexuality, but also their gender identity and The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda will continue to advocate for increased legislative inclusiveness. We hope that Bermuda’s law-makers will eventually join other nations in extending further equal rights to the LGBTQ community.
This legislation would not be possible without years of campaigning by countless activists and groups, especially Dr. John Stubbs, Two Words and a Comma, the Allan Vincent Smith Foundation, the Human Rights Commission, and Amnesty International Bermuda. The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda is proud to be counted among these groups, and would like to also thank Centre for Justice and The Chewstick Foundation for their unwavering support.