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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.

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.

Human Rights Act Amendment Passed by Parliament: Our Statement to the Press

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.

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.

Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda Statement to the OBA, the PLP’s Marc Bean, and the Press

The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda would like to congratulate the One Bermuda Alliance on their victory in the recent election and praise the Progressive Labour party for being gracious in their defeat. We hope that both parties will be able to work together to address the issues facing Bermudians. The Rainbow Alliance is committed to seeking social acceptance, legislative protection, and equality for the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender & queer) community and their allies. Both parties expressed willingness to amend the Human Rights Act to include sexual orientation during their pre-election campaigning. LGBTQ people are disadvantaged under the current status quo, and this must be addressed. We now implore the current government to follow-through with these promises and create legislative change.

The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda would also like to publicly address the new leader of the PLP, Marc Bean.

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