Opinion Column: U.S. Consul On LGBT Pride

June 18, 2014

[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.

As President Barack Obama has said, “LGBT rights are human rights. Human rights are inalienable and belong to each and every human being, no matter their race, religion, gender or gender orientation.”

The Government of Bermuda recognized the importance of LGBT rights last year when it approved the Human Rights Amendment Act 2013 [HRAA 2013] to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Despite government policies or changes in law, many LGBT individuals in Bermuda and elsewhere, including the U.S., still face bigotry and intolerance. They often feel excluded from the social fabric of their societies, whether in the realm of education, religion, or the workforce.

They also share the real fear of violence being perpetrated against them. It happens in the U.S., and it can happen in Bermuda. Indeed, it already has. This September will mark 21 years since Wilfred “Oopie” Ming, Jr., was stabbed to death in what can only be described as a hate crime.

Progress in any endeavor begins with honest discussion. Reaching understanding takes a willingness to see differences in belief as a reason to initiate conversation, not avoid it.

In Bermuda, several organizations have taken on that role with regard to LGBT matters, including the Rainbow Alliance, the Centre for Justice, Kinsfolk Bermuda, Two Words and a Comma, and, of course, the Bermuda Human Rights Commission. I applaud them for the important work they do.

To further that conversation, on June 23 the U.S. Consulate General and the Human Rights Commission will bring to the island two American LGBT speakers and rights advocates, Timothy Kane and Darnell Moore, to participate with Bermuda’s own Colwyn “Junior” Burchall in a three-day LGBT program to mark LGBT Pride Month.

Mr. Burchall, a Toronto-based author, educational consultant, and literacy specialist, is co-founder of the Fihankra Home Academy, an Afrocentric education co-operative.

He champions justice in general and challenges the oppression of sexual orientation in particular. Mr. Burchall is author of Look for Me in the Whirlwind: A Story of Marcus Garvey, Freedom’s Flames: Slavery in Bermuda, and The True Story of Sally Bassett and Dame Lois: The People’s Advocate. He has a Master’s Degree in Education from Mount Saint Vincent University.

Mr. Kane, the Associate Director for Inclusion Initiatives at George Washington University, directs the university’s LGBT Resource Center. He has developed LGBT, transgender, and religious diversity training programs for the public and private sectors, including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. Department of Education. He has a Master’s Degree of Divinity from Harvard and a Master’s Degree of Theology from Maryknoll School of Theology.

Mr. Moore, a writer and advocate who co-founded YOU Belong to encourage inclusion and diversity, was the inaugural chair of former Mayor Newark Cory A. Booker’s Commission on LGBT Concerns and co-founder of the Queer Newark Oral History Project. He is Managing Editor/Partner of The Feminist Wire and a Fellow at the Center for African American Religion, Sexuality and Social Justice at Columbia University.

Mr. Moore has a Bachelor’s Degree in Social and Behavioral Science from Seton Hall University, a Master’s Degree in Clinical Counseling from Eastern University [United States], and a Master’s Degree in Theological Studies from Princeton Theological Seminary.

The program will begin at Specialty Theater #2 at 6:00 PM on Monday, June 23, when we will screen the film Pariah, which follows 17-year-old Alike and the many issues she and her family face as she begins to embrace her identity as a lesbian. The film will be followed by an open discussion including our visiting speakers.

Trailer for Pariah:

On Tuesday, June 24, at 6:00 PM, we will host a panel discussion on LGBT inclusion at Hallet Hall at the Bermuda College, moderated by Tiffany Paynter. Along with Messrs. Burchall, Kane, and Moore, the Reverend Nicholas Tweed will sit on the panel. We will invite the audience to participate in the discussion.

During the speakers’ three-day visit to Bermuda, they will also meet with various community groups, including young people, clergy, professional groups, and groups that advocate on behalf of the LGBT community.

It is axiomatic that justice must prevail over ignorance, prejudice, and intolerance. In an April 1963 letter from the Birmingham jail to his fellow clergymen, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Rev. King, of course, was talking about racial injustice in the United States, but his statement applies to all people everywhere, including LGBT people. It is in recognition of that mutual network, that destiny we all share, that we sponsor the upcoming LGBT program.

In closing, I would like to offer my support to the Bermudians who will be participating in WorldPride 2014 in Toronto from June 20-29. Pride events mark the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City’s Greenwich Village, which were the beginning of the modern LGBT liberation movement that has transformed oppression into pride.

I hope to see you on Monday, June 23, for the screening of Pariah and again on Tuesday, June 24, for the discussion at Bermuda College.

-U.S. Consul General to Bermuda Robert Settje

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Comments (47)

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  1. I would love to have Bermuda’s first GAY WEDDING ceremony at the BERMUDA PEACE DAY CONCERT
    It would be ground breaking for human rights in BERMUDA !

    GRAMMY WEDDING CEREMONY
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnCfV2v3W_Q

    • Paradox says:

      Mr. Brandon:

      I respectfully disagree and point out that your statement is a paradox – or an oxymoron, perhaps. “Gay Wedding” is an oxymoron as the church is the structure/organization that sanctions weddings, which is the same structure/organization that has issues with the lifestyle.

      Perhaps a “Gay Union” would be more appropriate as a term/statement.

      Paradox

      • DarkSideofTheMoon says:

        Wow, and here I was thinking that the organization that sanctions marriages was the Registry General of the Bermuda Government.

        • Black Soil says:

          Dear “Paradox”…it’s uneducated, bigotted persons like you that stop progress. The Church is NOT the sanctioning body of marriage. Here’s an irony for you…”thank God the Church is NOT the sanctioning body of marriage, and the state IS”. If a Church does not want to oversee a marriage, then they can stay away from it. Did you know “Paradox” at at one point in our history, the Church would not allow an inter-ratial marriage (was that right “paradox”?). At many a Church would not marry someone if they were divorced…was that right “paradox”. I think “paradox” that you need a lesson in HUMAN RIGHTS. And also you need a lesson on the importance of the separation of Church and State.

      • oxymoron says:

        Good on you, Tony.

        It is not an oxymoron because not all churches oppose gay marriage, some are very supportive in many countries where gay marriage is legal (e.g. many US states, Canada, UK, etc).

      • Mike says:

        “…the church is the structure/organization that sanctions weddings…”

        Who’s Church? Christian churches? Does that mean wedding ceremonies conducted under Islamic law are invalid? How about the couple that get married at the registrar?

        This would certainly invalidate atheist marriages also.

        Your intolerance is showing.

      • PBanks says:

        Legally, a wedding doesn’t have to be performed by a religious body, so if government was to allow same-sex marriage, then it’s just a matter of having a person with the authority to sanction the marriage available, right?

      • Paz says:

        Churches are not the only organizations to sanction weddings. Throughout history weddings and marriages have been performed by civil authorities, community elders, government officials, etc. To think that a church or any religion has exclusivity is ridiculous.

      • Get it "Straight"...lol says:

        The “church”, actually sanctions MARRIAGE, NOT Weddings. Big Difference.

    • Pastor Syl Hayward says:

      And wouldn’t I love to officiate at that wedding! I know the perfect couple too! However, at the moment, it is only a dream!

      Elsewhere in Bermuda, people are asking if gay people are insisting on rights, why are heterosexuals excluded! Reminds me of the guy at my graduate school who wanted to know, if there is a section of the library specifically for Women, why isn’t there a similar section for Men. He was reminded that the rest of the library was pretty much devoted to men. In other words, the heterosexual view of the world is so ubiquitous, it goes unnoticed.

      • We the People (1st!!) says:

        “Pastor,”

        I only have two questions for you.

        1) Do you preach out of the Bible and do you believe entirely in the Bible?

        If you are a bible based pastor please answer the following question with a simple yes or no answer.

        2) Does the God of the Bible believe, supports, or approves of the homosexuality lifestyle? To be honest, it is the sexuality and not the person themselves which is the main issue.

        Thank you.

        • Family Man says:

          If you still believe in the Christian book of fairy tales written by idiots, obviously you have not read it.

          Any person who curseth his father or mother must be killed
          ~Leviticus 20:9
          I guess they just waive that commandment about ‘thou shall not kill’.

          If a man has sex with a woman on her period, they are both to be cut off from their people
          ~Leviticus 20:18 Can we define ‘has sex’?

          People who have flat noses, or are blind or lame, cannot go to an altar of God
          ~Leviticus 21:17-18 Hey, gotta look good for god.

          Anyone who dreams or prophesizes anything that is against God, or anyone who tries to turn you from God, is to be put to death
          ~Deuteronomy 13:5
          Lets waive that pesky ‘thou shall not kill’ bit shall we?

          The eating of fat is prohibited forever
          ~Leviticus 3:17
          mmmm does Bermuda get a special waiver for mayonnaise?

          Entrance into the assembly of the Lord was granted only to those with complete testicles
          ~Deuteronomy 23:1
          Who came up with this one? And who checks? Better not forget my cup for the next game.

          “Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.”
          ~Psalm 137:9
          They must have come up with this one during a really bad hangover when the kids were making too much noise.

          We could go on … there’s so many bizarre examples to choose from.

          • We the People (1st!!) says:

            It is easy to pick things out of the Bible or any religious book and say ‘look at the crazy things that are in it.”

            It is also, oh so very wrong to do it from a position of not having studied the book to understand the context of what things mean, and how it relates to the times we are living in now. That is just pure ignorance.

            You need to try again, don’t quote any religious book you do not understand, and lets have a honest and logical conversation.

            I didn’t want to bring religion, the bible, or any religious book into this conversation. I was simply seeking clarification for myself from the above Pastor on her position on this matter, as being a Pastor.This is why I opened my comment addressing it to “Pastor.”

            I am not a religious man, but for you to disrespect an entire religion and christians by saying “the Christian book of fairy tales written by idiots” is very offensive.

            You can do better than that.

        • BlueFamiliar says:

          Hard to say, given the Bible was written by man and man is known to make mistakes in translation.

          Mind you, if you follow the Bible you need to take into consideration that by it God apparently also supports slaves, stonings and quite a few other unpleasant things that civilised people now don’t support.

          So, shall we go backwards? Or continue to understand that the nice men who put down the words reflected by the Bible was a reflection of historical beliefs and does not have to relate to people today.

          Oh, and how about we work on the ten commandments first, before we start coming up with new ones.

    • Steve Biko says:

      And just to think that animals get it right and we’re supposed to be more intelligent !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Family Man says:

        It must be quite upsetting when you realize dogs are smarter than you. My sympathies.

      • We the People (1st!!) says:

        What does other animal species have to do with us humans. That is an insult to compare the two. Do animals know right for wrong, have a social moral responsibility.

        Animals also kill and eat their young, will that become acceptable? If you want to make a point, make sure it is logical.

      • Build a Better Bermuda says:

        Just what are you trying to justify with this statement, that animal’s don’t practice homosexuality. You would be incredibly wrong there, not just in saying that animals don’t do it, but in that animal sociology and human sociology are starkly different. But you would rather think simplistically to justify your own intolerance judgement of others’ happiness, and that is your right to think so… but it is not your right to enforce your belief on others.

  2. swing voter says:

    grease balls, hurricanes, and now this? One thing for sure, he’s certainly the opposite of Gregory Slaton

  3. campervan says:

    Thank you sir!
    and for the hard of seeing/hearing out there lets reiterate:-

    As President Barack Obama has said, “LGBT rights are human rights. Human rights are inalienable and belong to each and every human being, no matter their race, religion, gender or gender orientation.”

    Thank you Robert and thank you President Obama.:)

  4. Impressive says:

    Human Rights works for all, except for BIU members, as it appears in Bermuda these days…. Life goes on.

    • jt says:

      How so?

      • Impressive says:

        In the sense that the minute they meet over a dispute, whether it be “unfair” working conditions, breaking prior agreements, etc.. the blades come out and a portion of this island are quick to blame the union for disrupting peoples everyday lives and most are calling for the union to be eliminated altogether. Ironically, many of these same people are ready to shout Human Rights when it comes to homosexuals and most recently PRC’s.. For the record, I don’t have an issue with gay people neither do I have an issue with the rights or PRC’S, but the double standards is amusing to say the least.

  5. swing voter says:

    this guy opens his mouth on the most ‘interesting’ topics. his next official advisory will likely label BDA as an GAY unfriendly destination.

  6. Truth is killin' me... says:

    This U.S. Consul General is trying to make a name for himself, that is all. I see the last one has now taken a job at Clarien, formally Capital G. They all have their own personal agendas, even Obama does.

  7. haha says:

    Gross…

  8. MR_CEO says:

    I’m a supporter of gay rights. And not a closet supporter either. From the time I was a kid, I have never been able to understand attacks upon the gay community. There are so many qualities that make up a human being… by the time I get through with all the things that I really admire about people, what they do with their private parts is probably so low on the list that it is irrelevant.

  9. BermyGuy says:

    I have to wonder at what point the people fighting to protect marriage will realize that traditional couples haven’t exactly been doing too good a job of it so far.

    • Mike says:

      Indeed.

    • MPP says:

      Marriage is tough. Married people are imperfect.

      That doesn’t mean that marriage in its intended, natural design isn’t worth protecting.

  10. Terry says:

    Irony is, this subject and laws has sheet to do with the US Consulate.
    Tink about it.
    Shalom.

  11. Withheld due to fear of reprisal says:

    Simply disgusting that the USA is promoting “lifestyles” globally.

    Hey Obama! How goes the “lifestyles” marketing in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Iraq, etc.? Oh wait, USA would never do anything such as promoting a “lifestyle” on Muslim countries. Why is that? Why does Obama not go to Egypt again and make a big speech to a crowd on “lifestyles?”

  12. When we embrace the ideal that all people are free and equal in dignity and rights, as laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 then we will create a world that adopts practices and laws that are humane and respectful of the human qualities of every person.

    We have a lot of work to do to further fundamental human rights, and same gender marriage is an important step for us to take to not only end discrimination, but also so that we can say as a society that we value and appreciate all people, and their partners or spouses as free and equal.

    And we dignify ourselves when we make these changes.

    As to do anything else is to violate ourselves and that diminishes all of us.

  13. nuffin but the truth says:

    Bermuda and it’s people are so BACKWARD in many things!

  14. James Herald says:

    Churches already disapprove of certain marriages. Many won’t marry you if you’ve been married before. Not marrying gays just takes their discrimination one step further. Who remember recently when churches wanted a special exception so they could discriminate on sexual orientation? They wanted it written into law. That’s how judgmental they are. All in the name of God. They are sick.

  15. Keepin' it Real!...4Real! says:

    obama is gay an alot more thats why …you want proof??
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwgD-8Bj_Qs&hd=1

  16. Happy234 says:

    I feel this is not the appropriate use of the US Consul General’s time, resources and position. IF Bermuda organizations wish to do something like this then so be it, but I feel it is NOT appropriate for the US Consul General to do so.