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.
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 Ministry of Community, Culture and Sports has announced that public information sessions regarding same sex marriage will be held on Monday, 28 September and Thursday, 1 October.
“The public information sessions follow as a response to the petition that was presented to Government in May 2015,” the Ministry said.
“These sessions will focus on experiences in other jurisdictions and the current local situation as well as provide an opportunity for questions and answers.”
Video of the petition being presented in May 2015:
Community, Culture and Sports Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin said, “When I received the petition from Mr. Tony Brannon and supporters, I assured them that Government would take into consideration the proposed request allowing same sex marriage in Bermuda.
“The Department of Human Affairs has presented to Cabinet research regarding what other countries have enacted in legislation and what steps can be taken. At the public information sessions we plan on sharing what we’ve learned as well as give our citizens an opportunity to respond.”
Minister Gordon-Pamplin added, “We want to encourage community engagement and dialogue around the subject. It is important after reviewing the research about what other countries have done that we, in Bermuda, have frank and honest dialogue about same sex marriage.”
The information sessions will be held on Monday, 28 September at the Berkeley Institute and Thursday, 1 October at Bermuda College North Hall. The sessions begin at 6 p.m.
In response, Tony Brannon — who started the petition — said, “It’s a start. Everyday we don’t make this happen is a day lost for human rights and tourism.”
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.
[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.
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.
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.