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Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda’s Response to Referendum Results

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

Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda Statement on Pulse Shooting in Orlando, FL

The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda is deeply shocked and saddened by the hateful mass shooting in Orlando, Florida. We stand in solidarity with the fellow members of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) community around the world as we mourn the loss of those senselessly murdered and injured at Pulse nightclub, a safe space for the gay community. Our thoughts are with their loved ones, spouses, partners, parents, children, families and friends.

In a small community like Bermuda, we know how important it is to cultivate safer spaces where LGBTQ people can feel free to express their true selves. It is a shocking violation for those spaces to be brutalized with homophobic and transphobic violence. This attack was not only on the individuals at Pulse, but also against the global LGBTQ community during the month of Pride.

This attack was also not solely the result of one man’s gun, but the end result of systems and cultures that spread homophobia and transphobia. When LGBTQ people are seen as less-than-human, as not deserving equal human rights and respect, a target is painted on our backs. In Bermuda, we need to tackle these systemic roots of homophobic violence, to see each other all as equals deserving of equal rights, if we truly want to stand in solidarity with the victims of this shooting.

The Pulse massacre is heartbreaking. The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda would like to remind our LGBTQ community and allies that we do not tolerate hate, Islamophobia, or religion-bashing. For us to be free, we must fight our battles intersectionally. We exist solely in the realm of love, and for that reason, love must win. Be proud. Love and light to Orlando.

Response to Preserve Marriage’s Charitable Status

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.

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.

New bill is ‘a step in the right direction’

By Owain Johnston-Barnes
Government has formally tabled legislation to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

The Human Rights Act currently prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, sex, religion and criminal record, but the Human Rights Amendment Bill 2013 adds sexual orientation to that list.

…Outside the House of Assembly, dozens of supporters gathered yesterday for a “picnic lunch” organised by the Sexual Orientation Working Group.

The event was held to not only celebrate the tabling of the bill, but to mark the UN International Day Against Homophobia, which was yesterday.

Several members of the crowd wore purple, the colour adopted for the Day Against Homophobia, while others wore purple ribbons and held purple balloons.

A number of attendees also brought placards adorned with phrases including “Feel the Love Bermuda”, “Welcome to the 21st Century Bermuda” and “All Humans have Rights”.

Continue Reading…

Videos: International Day Against Homophobia

Dozens of people have gathered outside the House of Assembly this afternoon [May 17] to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.

The day is celebrated around the world and was chosen as on 17 May 1990, the General Assembly of the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from their list of mental disorders, which the international body said served to end more than a century of medical homophobia.

The event is hosted by Amnesty International, Centre for Justice, Rainbow Alliance, Two Words and a Comma and the Vision Ministry.

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Today’s Throne Speech; Sexual Orientation: Our Statement to the Press

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.