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.
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”.
The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda would like to acknowledge the outpouring of love and support for the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) community in response to the referendum on marriage equality. We have always maintained that a referendum is not the appropriate vehicle for this kind of human rights issue, and the failure to get enough of a voter turn-out proved this exercise to be a colossal waste of taxpayer funds.
While many countries have deemed marriage a heterosexual-only institution, over 76 of them also include anti-LGBTQ legislation that endangers the lives of LGBTQ people. This is not an example to follow. Bermuda is a much smaller community than the 20+ countries that have already changed legislation to provide marriage equality. The referendum results show an opportunity for more education around LGBTQ issues and equity. The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda now renews our call to urge the Government to show leadership on this issue. We will continue to advocate for marriage equality but we now expect the courts to quickly fill the vacuum left by the politicians’ cowardice.
The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda is grateful for an end to the divisive and often-hurtful campaigning that this exercise has inspired. The discourse has included homophobic and transphobic attacks on the humanity of LGBTQ people through intellectually dishonest and sometimes hateful propaganda.
Particularly, we want to tell the young LGBTQ community that the island’s majority failing to speak for them does not mean that they are in any way unworthy. You are amazing and deserve love without constraints within a supportive society. We want to tell the LGBTQ Bermudians that could not vote on their rights because they have been forced to leave for more accepting communities: we miss you, we love you, and we want to make home a safer place. LGBTQ family, you matter, and love will ultimately win.
The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda will remain committed to creating safer spaces and advocating for equity for the LGBTQ community.
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
The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda condemns the decision to grant Preserve Marriage charitable status. The Registrar General and Charity Commissioners may have acted unlawfully with this hasty decision. We call upon the Registrar General and/or Minister Fahy to reverse this decision immediately. This action follows other failings of the government to act with the benefit of all Bermudians in mind, including their tabling of the Matrimonial Causes Act Amendment 2016 and the calling of a referendum on a Human Rights issue.
Section 3(b) of the Charities Act 2014 requires that a charitable purpose must be for the public benefit. The Commissioners have published guidance under section 13 of that Act. This public benefit test must consider any actual benefits for society arising from the charity (e.g. educating people about the benefits of marriage). The guidance indicates that “any detriment or harm which is caused by a charity’s purposes” should be considered (e.g. denying people access to the institution of marriage, advocating against the human rights of others, and the stigmatization of an entire group that arises when they are singled out). The Charities Commission must determine whether the harm outweighs the benefit. If it does, then the public benefit test must fail. Based on Preserve Marriage’s public activity thus far, there is no long-term public benefit from their campaigning, which is also political in nature.
The guidance also describes “forbidden purposes” as those which: “explicitly provide for some detriment or harm; are unlawful or contrary to public policy; or are of such a serious nature as to negate the benefit provided, cannot be beneficial, and consequently, are never charitable” (p. 32). Preserve Marriage defines its campaigning by its opposition to the rights of a protected group under the Human Rights Act 1981. The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda asks the Charities Commissioners how they could, in good conscience, decide that this was for the public’s benefit?
The guidance also discusses that an organization cannot be a charity if it has a political purpose, including: “securing or opposing any change in the law, whether in Bermuda or overseas; and securing or opposing a change in the policy or decisions of central government or local authorities or other public bodies, whether in Bermuda or overseas” (p.39). Preserve Marriage have operated a political campaign over the past several months through demonstrations, advertising, petitions about law-changes, and bringing in overseas speakers. In Preserve Marriage’s promotional materials, their intended purpose includes: “To inform the public about the truth of civil unions; to ensure legislation related to marriage in Bermuda is fortified; and to ensure that a few do not decide for the many.” Each of these objectives are clearly political in nature and have been campaigned for over the past few months specifically to oppose the Government’s consideration of same sex marriage and/or civil unions. The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda asks the Charities Commissioners how they could, in good conscience, decide that their purpose was not primarily political?
We acknowledge that Preserve Marriage does note on their website that people of all sexualities should be respected, but their activities and objectives do not foster respect for the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) community or a spirit of inclusivity within the broader Bermudian community. The Preserve Marriage campaign has been riddled with dog-whistle politics, such as the “Consequences to Redefining Marriage” handout which lists items that could be beneficial and supportive of the LGBTQ community as scare-tactic opposition to recognition of marriage equality. The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda would again like to recognise the significant importance of the rights of LGBTQ Bermudians and residents to be respected and protected under the Human Rights Act. At best, Preserve Marriage’s advocacy has promoted hurtful heterosexist and transphobic rhetoric that has created significant mental and emotional anguish for the LGBTQ people of Bermuda.
The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda believes that Preserve Marriage would fail both the public benefit and the political purposes test. Their purposes are detrimental and outweigh any possible benefit. Indeed, they might arguably amount to a forbidden purpose. Further, their past statements and activities show an explicit desire to change our marriage legislation and to undermine Government’s own efforts to bring in civil union legislation. We urge the Registrar General and Minister Fahy to reverse the granting of Preserve Marriage’s charitable status.
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. The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda is not a charity and does not seek funding.
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.
By Raymond Hainey, for The Royal Gazette
Bermuda is in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights over gay partnerships, an English lawyer and academic has warned.
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.
By Sam Strangeways, for The Royal Gazette
Campaigners have labelled as “unfair” new legislation allowing same-sex couples to legally marry under British law in 23 countries — but not in Bermuda.
By Owain Johnston-Barnes, for The Royal Gazette
A same-sex couple was turned away from several rental apartments and treated with hostility by Bermuda Immigration, it has been alleged.
By Jonathan Bell
Same-sex marriage will likely make its way to Bermuda, but probably not any time soon, according to a UK law professor.
Human rights lawyer Nicola Barker, due to address Bermuda College graduates on the topic, told The Royal Gazette that gay marriage was becoming a world trend.
“That will probably be the case in Bermuda. I don’t know enough about Bermuda’s political situation to predict if it’s imminent. I would suspect it would take a lot of work by gay rights campaigners.”