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Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda’s Response to Referendum Announcement

The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda condemns the Bermuda Government’s move to have a referendum on marriage equality. We agree with the assessment of the Centre for Justice that a referendum is an inappropriate method for making human rights decisions that impact a small minority of Bermuda’s population.

The proposed Matrimonial Causes Amendment Act 2016 would effectively legislate discrimination, as pointed out by the Human Rights Commission. The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda stands by the HRC’s analysis and underscores that inequality cannot be enshrined in Human Rights Law. It appears that the OBA government is attempting to fix this poor legislation with another cowardly route away from equity for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) people.

If the government maintains that marriage is between a man and a woman, how are they also suggesting that civil unions are a viable comparison for same-gender-loving couples? During the information session on February 15, Minister Pamplin-Gordon said in reference to taking the question to the people of Bermuda: “Many human rights have had to be fought for by minorities […] What we don’t want to do is to put ourselves as a country in the situation in which a majority of people say that we are willing to trample on the rights of a minority […] That would specifically be in violation of the preamble that we have to our human rights act […]: ‘Recognition of the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family[…]'” We are saddened to find that her words were merely lip-service to equity.

To quote the former Premier Cannonier when he declared that the referendum on gaming would be cancelled, “This matter is too important for political games.” A referendum on marriage equality seems like a political move by a party afraid to show leadership on a human rights issue. In December 2013, the OBA government broke its campaign promise for a referendum on gaming. Since then, there have also been calls for referendums on immigration reform, education, and cannabis reform. It is hypocritical that the government decide to play political games with the legal rights of a minority of oppressed individuals.

The Finance Minister has only just shared the debt Bermuda is faced with during the recent Budget. Referendums cost approximately $350,000. This issue should not be decided by such a costly means.

Similarly, with many LGBTQ Bermudians forced to leave home because of the very discrimination we seek to solve, it is likely that a referendum will not have an accurate reflection of those that will be impacted by the decision. We hope that if the Government proceeds with this disappointing referendum, that they hold it during the summer holidays, which would allow a chance for some students who are typically abroad to have a say in this matter. If it does turn out that a majority of Bermudians do support marriage equality, we would expect Government to remove its objectionable policy regarding civil unions and to legislate marriage equality fully.

Prolonging this decision for a referendum also ushers in more months of campaigning full of rampant homophobia and transphobia that will cause considerable mental anguish and heightened discomfort for the LGBTQ community. Particularly, the Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda would like to underscore how damaging a continuation of hateful rhetoric will be on LGBTQ youth that are simply trying to exist in a country that forcefully tells them they are somehow abnormal. We affirm the existence of our young LGBTQ Bermudians and encourage them to remain hopeful about the future: it gets better.

We urge the OBA to reconsider this hasty course of action.

As always, the Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda remains committed to providing safer spaces for the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) community. It 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.

Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda’s Response to “Preserve Marriage Bermuda”

The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda supports the rights of all people in Bermuda to have their consensual, loving relationships between two individuals recognized and protected – regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. The Bermuda courts have already supported this position, ruling that refusing to recognize same-sex partnerships amounts to discrimination – a stance which we wholeheartedly stand by.

A referendum on this issue disregards the struggle of minority groups in human rights issues. Why should an unaffected majority decide the extent to which an oppressed minority can access their rights? Fundamental rights and freedoms are in place to protect minorities against the shifting passions of the majority. Referenda pose a danger to the protections afforded to minority groups through legislative and judicial means. Preserve Marriage‘s rhetoric shows a need for a better understanding on how to be accepting of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Justice Anthony Kennedy’s eloquent writing from the US Supreme Court ruling of Obergefell v. Hodges shows how important allowing same-sex marriage is to the community at large:

“As all parties agree, many same-sex couples provide loving and nurturing homes to their children, whether biological or adopted. … Excluding same-sex couples from marriage thus conflicts with a central premise of the right to marry. Without the recognition, stability, and predictability marriage offers, their children […] suffer the significant material costs of being raised by unmarried parents, relegated through no fault of their own to a more difficult and uncertain family life. The marriage laws at issue here thus harm and humiliate the children of same-sex couples.

“In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

Preserve Marriage’s media campaign against same-sex marriage is offensive and riddled with skewed statistics. For the many non-heterosexual young people and adults in Bermuda, Preserve Marriage’s homophobia is further entrenching the daily exclusion and alienation already faced. It is unfortunate that with the multiple serious issues Bermuda is currently facing, a group of individuals would use such a significant amount of resources to advocate to prevent a recognized segment of the population from being able to benefit from rights and freedoms afforded to the majority.

The Rainbow Alliance will continue to support the rights of LGBTQ+ persons in Bermuda to have safe spaces available and to educate the community on LGBTQ+ issues.

“The conversation on [the legal right for marriage equality] has NOTHING to do with my Christian beliefs.”

“The conversation on whether or not men should have the legal right to marry men or whether women should have the legal right to marry women has NOTHING to do with my Christian beliefs.”

We received this heartfelt letter of support from Justin D Brangman, a Bermudian who attended the Ministry of Community, Culture & Sports’ Information Session on Same Sex Marriage on Monday September 28. Thank you Justin.

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Bermuda isn’t another world

RG: In our opinion [Published in the Royal Gazette Jul 12, 2014]

Same-sex unions solemnised in other countries already impact on civil and human rights in Bermuda as well as spousal benefits and insurance, inheritance and residency issues.

Bermuda cannot simply resort to its default position of putting off until the day after tomorrow what it doesn’t care to deal with today when it comes to such complex and pressing matters.

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Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda’s Response to Throne Speech; National Gender Policy

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

Co-signed:
Two Words & A Comma
Kinsfolk Bermuda

Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda’s Response to CoH Deputy Mayor Donal Smith’s Comments

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.

A Response to the United for Change Position Statement

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.

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