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 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.
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.
It’s the Wednesday before Valentine’s Day… Come out, meet and greet, LOVE who you are, and BE YOURSELF! ♥
Rumba°r Lounge & Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda present Rumba°r Rainbow Wednesdays: a fun, LGBTQ-friendly, wider community welcoming social event (bring your friends)!
DJ Lady Blazian will be back again providing you with groovy house, pop, r&b and reggae beats. Rumba°r will supply the drinks and eats, and Rainbow Alliance will have some very special WORLDPRIDE giveaways! See you at Victoria Grill/Rumba°r Lounge, February 11 2015, from 6-10 PM.
Every Wednesday, starting December 10, Victoria Grill & Rumba°r Lounge (in collaboration with Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda), present Rumba°r Rainbow Wednesdays: a fun, LGBTQ-friendly, wider community welcoming social event!
By Carla Zuill, for Bermuda Sun
The month of June signified Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month worldwide. It is observed every year in honour of the 1969 Stonewall riots, which took place in New York City.
On June 24, the Human Rights Commission, in conjunction with the Consulate General of the United States, hosted a panel discussion at the Bermuda College. The standing-room only crowd had the opportunity to talk about LGBT rights and tolerance on the island with the aim of having respectful, open and frank dialogue.
Recently, Carla Zuill spoke with three Bermudians who are openly gay. Each shares a bit of insight into their lives and how they have coped with being gay in Bermuda.
[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.