Column: Do Not Set ‘Dangerous’ Precedent

February 23, 2016

[Opinion column written by Quinton B. Butterfield]

For months Bermuda has been grappling with Marriage Equality. There has been much debate. On the one side we have the “Love Wins” group, looking to gain the rights that heterosexuals enjoy. On the other side, “Preserve Marriage”, a group that has a religious belief that marriage should be between one man and one woman.

Each side has presented its arguments, petitions and physical presence the the government, exercising their human right to free speech. This has been a politically charged topic and there is no wonder that the government has been hesitant to make any decisions.

Quinton Berkley Butterfield 160223

Instead, most of the rights being gained have been granted and acknowledged through Supreme Court rulings. One would surmise that this has been a breath of fresh air for both the government and the opposition, so that they can stay out of the fray.

But this all ended a few days ago.

If you have read any of my articles before, you know that I am for same-­sex marriage. That is unmistakeable. There are many reasons that I take this stance, but when it comes to what I believe is right, this is based on the fact that I am a Humanist.

A Humanist believes in the cause of human rights for all and for the preservation of our planet for future generations. A humanist is a free­thinker, one that does not use dogma, religion or tradition in viewing the world. A free­thinker, who tries to look at all aspects of a situation, looks for the facts and then comes to a conclusion.

Above all, however, I am concerned with the rights of humans, whether they be free speech, freedom of [and from] religion, and the right to live a life that makes one happy, as long as those rights do not infringe on other’s rights. Human rights above all!

So, in saying that, I am mind­blown by the upcoming parliamentary proceedings that we as a country are about to face. And these mind­boggling and insane changes that are being proposed, are not just coming from the government of the day, but the opposition as well, and in a more fervent fashion.

So let us go back several days ago. The government, in an attempt to walk the line has proposed the introduction of civil unions in Bermuda. I personally do not think this goes far enough, but a statement from MP Moniz is what really made me cringe.

“This Government has no intention of same­ sex marriage becoming law. The Matrimonial Causes Act will have primacy over the Human Rights Act in that regard.”

- Trevor Moniz, MP

The implications of that statement bothered me, because it showed that the government is willing to place a clause in a law that will water down the Human Rights Act. This clause is based on the calls from Preserve Marriage to protect what they believe to be a religious rite, ordained by God. A call from a subsection of a subsection of the community in Bermuda, since there are many religious people that do not believe how Preserve Marriage believes.

This belief, something that is not shared by everyone, and should not be forced on everyone, is making it’s way into the law that governs us all. I thought to myself, how could someone propose such a change. Well if that statement was a gale from a category one hurricane, MP Wayne Furbert just released a statement of Hurricane Fabian proportions.

“So, what we have laid today is an amendment to the Human Rights Act, Clause Two, where it talks about discrimination. We put in there ‘Except For’…” ­

- Wayne Furbert, MP

Is this real life? Is this what we are looking to do in Bermuda? MP Furbert actually stated that we should go into the Human Rights Act, to the specific clause about discrimination, and place the two words, “except for”. He looks to explicitly place discrimination into the Human Rights Act. An act that was created to fight discrimination. Section 2[a] of the Human Rights Act 1981 says this [and then lists seven categories like race, sexual orientation, marital status, etc]:

For the purposes of this Act a person shall be deemed to discriminate against another person— if he treats him less favourably than he treats or would treat other persons generally or refuses or deliberately omits to enter into any contract or arrangement with him on the like terms and the like circumstances as in the case of other persons generally or deliberately treats him differently to other persons because—

Can you imagine what MP Furbert would have to say if Section 2[a] was altered to say the above, and added “except for Bermudians wanting to live in Hamilton because it is believed that that Hamilton should be for rich ex­pats only.”

What would the women of the OBA or PLP say if we altered the Human Rights Act Section 2[a] to say, “except for women, because we believe that they should stay home and take care of the house and children.”

Would Preserve Marriage accept a change that says, “except for religious people, because of their belief in Jesus”? Is this what Preserve Marriage is really looking to implement with the supremacy clauses they are asking for in the Matrimonial Act and the Human Rights Act? Except for?

These laws have been put in place to protect minorities. To protect people who need protection from the majority. To protect human rights! I ask the government and the opposition, please do not tinker with the protections that have been put in place.

We do not want to set a precedent where Acts are made to trump the rights of humans; your brothers and sisters, your coworker’s, the stranger on the street. This is dangerous and should not take place. Even outside the conversation of same ­sex marriage, the rights afforded by the Human Rights Act should not be altered. I call on the government to not erode these rights, granted to all people of Bermuda.

I want to leave you with this, what the Human Rights Act seeks to achieve.

“Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the World and is in accord with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as proclaimed by the United Nations.”

- Quinton Berkley Butterfield

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Comments (17)

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  1. blankman says:

    Well said.

  2. Human rights!! says:

    Im glad the human rights commission has thrown its support behind same sex marriage and against the government and the preserve marriage group.

    Good luck to preserve marriage in trying to bring cases!

    we need to move forward and the HRC is leading the way.

  3. religion too says:

    But religion is protected as well? the HRC is saying to me my belief of marriage based on the bible is wrong.

    shame on them

    • Mike Hind says:

      This isn’t true. The HRC is saying that your belief of marriage based on the bible is exactly that… Yours.
      And shouldn’t have any effect on anyone else’s life.

      You will always be allowed to believe this. You just shouldn’t expect that other people should have to do the same.

      • religion too says:

        Perhaps but the commissioners for the HRC is making these statements so clearly any case brought by any religious groups is going to fall on deaf ears. for example we hold the belief that marriage should be between a man and a women – you don’t agree, that is your belief.

        but I am treated differently from you as if I try to have a conference in the Hamilton princess to discuss this belief we are barred from using the services. if the gay alliance are to the contrary allowed to use them to say its there belief that we are wrong then we are being treated differently and its a breach of the act.

        I take your point about churches, but we shall see what happens when a gay couple decide not to serve me because I don’t believe in same sex marriage. nothing.

        our HRC is broken and unfair

        the commissioner has made clear they don’t care about my religious views.

        • Build a Better Bermuda says:

          Actually the Princess didn’t host the function because it was to promote a discrimination in violation of the Human Rights Act.

        • Mike Hind says:

          Again, not true.

          It’s not the opinion or views that people, including the HRC, apparently, have a problem with.
          It’s the fact that you think and support the idea that other people should have to follow those views.
          That those views should be the basis of a denial of access to equal rights and privileges to Bermudians.

          As I said, no one is saying that you shouldn’t be allowed to have your opinion. Just that it shouldn’t have any effect on someone else’s relationship.

          I already addressed all of this.

          What I didn’t do was talk about churches. Are you even actually reading my posts?

        • M.C. Beauchamp says:

          Your freedom to hold your religious views are guaranteed under the HRA. Your discriminatory acts towards the LGBT community contravene the HRA. Your religious views do not receive primacy under the act, and that is the “cornerstone” of Preserve Marriage’s agenda. That is why Preserve Marriage has no legal leg to stand on under the HRA. Saying so doesn’t translate into the HRC saying they don’t care about your religious views. Your religious views are yours and you are guaranteed the freedom to both believe what you want and practice your religion any way you want within the Law by the HRA. The HRC is saying that the LGBT community has exactly the same rights to their own beliefs and practices. Preserve Marriage is transparently attempting to deny the LGBT community their rights. And when a variety of institutions and organisations say, “No, you cannot do that’, Preserve Marriage cries “wolf”. Nothing new here. This is a page from the evangelical religious right playbook.

    • serengeti says:

      You can believe anything you like. You just can’t force other people to believe it.

    • Build a Better Bermuda says:

      That isn’t what they are saying, you have your freedom of religion, you have your right to your belief, you have the right to your definition, you have the right to live by your belief, but your religious beliefs cannot be used to take away the equality of others outside your religion. This is freedom of religion… it also means freedom from religious persecution, no one belief can ever dictate over another’s, the law has to be above religion… that is equality.

      • hjd says:

        No, they are saying they shouldn’t be turned away from using services (like the hotel) on the grounds of their religious view. You can’t have it both ways.

        • Mike Hind says:

          They weren’t.

          It’s not their views that people have a problem with.

          It’s the fact that they think their views should apply to other people’s lives.

          “It’s against my religion” is not a reason to stop ANYONE else from having equal access to rights and privileges.

    • True Lies says:

      No, they’re saying you can’t force your crazy beliefs on others. You have every right to believe whatever you want, but you can’t keep me from working on Sunday and you shouldn’t be able to stop my friend from marrying his boyfriend.

    • aceboy says:

      They are not saying that to you at all. Making stuff up to back up your argument is about as weak as you can get. The bible doesn’t want you to lie does it? Is that the extent of your piety?

  4. Joe says:

    “But if God created us and if everything he created is good,how can an LGBT community person be guilty of being anthing other than what God created them to be? Viewed in this light,some of society’s current intolerance toward LGBT persons starts to look more like the racism of the klu klux klan or the anti-Semitism of Nazi Germany rather than authentic biblical faith .We’d do well to remember that both the KKK and the Nazis used proof texts from the bible to support their predjuces.Jesus did spend a lot of time talking about how we should treat others .First he made it clear it is not our role to judge .It is God’s ( “Judge not lest you be judged”,) [Matthew 7.1].) second he commanded us to love other people as we love ourselves.So. I ask you would you want to be discriminated against ? Sometimes theology can get complicated and the answers hard to come by . Not this time

  5. Mike Hind says:

    Beautifully said. Thank you.

  6. Shari-Lynn Pringle says:

    An excellent opinion Q! That the Government and Opposition are singing from the same hymnal on this issue is scary in itself. It’ll be a sad day for Bermuda if either of these amendments are made. With regard to Civil Unions, it is important for heterosexuals – and women in particular – to realize the depth of this continuing patriarchal decision. The Civil Union proposed is for homosexuals only. Meaning a) it can be automatically challenged as discriminatory b) it tells our daughters (and sons) that you must get married or expect nothing from any loving, committed relationship you enter into where there is property, children, etc. This is the 21st century, please! And we don’t want to talk about the unequal age of consent which Trevor Moniz is proud to claim and continue with the Civil Union legislation. Lawyers have to be simply giddy waiting for the litigation that will and should spill forth if either happen. Do better Bermuda!