HRC: “Gravely Concerned” About Amendment

February 26, 2016

The Human Rights Commission said they are “gravely concerned about the Government’s Matrimonial Causes Amendment Act 2016, which includes a clause that undermines the integrity of the Human Rights Act, 1981.”

During the information session on civil unions, Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin said, “The Matrimonial Causes Act will remain in place. There will be legislation tabled, such that Section 15 of the Matrimonial Causes Act [PDF] will continue to define marriage as being between a man and a woman, and there will be a carve out clause which will enable that segment to have supremacy with respect to the Human Rights Act.”

Audio extract of the Minister’s comments at the meeting:

A HRC spokesperson said, “We remain firmly opposed to all amendments, as proposed by both the Government and members of the Opposition that seek to weaken our national human rights legislation.

“The proposed amendments serve to enshrine inequality, and in so doing continue to marginalise members of our community who have long been denied legal protections held by the majority.

“The Commission has submitted its concerns to the Honourable Members of Parliament. We wish to share our submission and urge members of the public who are opposed to legislating discrimination to contact their constituent representatives and implore them to challenge any and all legislation that serves to uphold inequality.

“We encourage you to exercise your right to advocate and make your concerns known to your elected representatives. Please visit the Bermuda Parliament or OBA and PLP websites for contact details:”

The HRC said their submission reads as follows:

Good afternoon Honourable Members of Parliament,

The Human Rights Commission fervently opposes any amendment to the Human Rights Act 1981 [the "HRA"] which would serve to, in effect, legislate discrimination.

The HRA should not be amended at will to protect the view of the majority, to do so diminishes its power to ensure that all are treated equally under the law.

This is the very antithesis of human rights and equality and our hope is that the Government and the Opposition will strongly discourage any support by its Ministers and Members of any amendment proposed to override the primacy of the Human Rights Act 1981.

To pass an amendment of the HRA, which would insert language into the HRA which would solidify discrimination based on sexual orientation, in this case concerning the definition of marriage, would have the same consequence as the passage of the Matrimonial Causes Amendment Act 2016.

Both proposed amendments will subjugate equality, and without providing recourse for same sex couples under the law [as outlined in the judgment of Oliari and Others v. Italy] the government will be in contravention of its positive obligation to provide a route for legal recognition of same-sex couples.

Chief Justice Kawaley stated in the Bermuda Bred case, quoting Baroness Hale from Ghaidan v Godin Mendoza [2004] 2 AC 557:

“it is a purpose of all human rights instruments to secure the protection of the essential rights of members of minority groups, even when they are unpopular with the majority. Democracy values everyone equally even if the majority does not.”

When considering the above quote and the recent proposals to amend the Human Rights Act- and the Matrimonial Causes Act, without providing any legal route to recognition of same sex couples, we are confronted with a Government and an Opposition whose actions are not reflective of a democracy that values everyone’s rights equally.

Should either of the proposed amendments pass, our human rights instrument will be rigged so that a vulnerable minority is left without protection. When did we become a society that strips protection from segments of the population who most require it? Where will it end?

Finally, we submit that Acts which will place Government in contravention of its obligations not only under the ECHR but to those in our community who deserve and require protection should not be left to votes of conscience.


Tawana Tannock
The Bermuda Human Rights Commission

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Comments (38)

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  1. Cow Polly says:

    So first we have our own immigration laws undermining the Human Rights Act by creating an underclass of citizen (PRCs) and now we have the matrimonial act doing the same. This precedent is dangerous and unsettling for every person residing in Bermuda because each one of us will find ourselves listed on a minority list for something.

    • Just the Tip says:

      I agree with you

      But just to point out that the Causes in the Act is there already, government is trying to make it so that this supercedes the HRA.

      • Daylilly says:

        The ECHR does not say or imply that SSM is a human right. The Human Rights Act was amended under false pretenses in the first place. Just search the media for the Center for Justice and 2 words and a comma.
        These organizations campaigned for changes in the Human Rights Act saying that it would not lead to the legalisation of SSM, when that is exactly what it has done.

        If the ECHR required all Contracting States to adopt some form of Civil Union or SSM then all of the Contracting States would have done so. Many have not. The ECHR requires the government of Bermuda to consider what extent, if any at all the ruling would be applied here.

        The court cases being fought are using legalities and loopholes and taking laws out of the context in which they were originally intended and written.

        • We the People (1st!!) says:

          Ding! Ding! Ding! Exactly!!

          You hit the nail right on the head!

        • clearasmud says:

          “Both proposed amendments will subjugate equality, and without providing recourse for same-sex couples under the law the government will be in contravention of its positive obligation to provide a route for legal recognition of same-sex couples.”

          This is a misleading statement from our HRC because to date none of the rulings from the ECHR have required that states must give marriage “equality” to anyone. They have instead suggested “basic” legal recognition which would be achieved by the government’s granting of legal protections same sex civil unions.

          • mark says:

            Thats why they said “legal recognition” and not same sex marriage. Not misleading at all if you read it correctly.

        • serengeti says:

          Oh no. Not another PLP “loophole”.

          If only they had been more careful when passing laws, eh?

        • Just the Tip says:

          For some one who claims to be a christian you lie more that my carpet does

      • Same Love Bermuda says:


    • We the People (1st!!) says:

      Citizenship and Same-Sex marriage under UN and global Human Right laws are not considered a human right. No migrate to any country has a right or entitlement to citizenship from that country.

      Majority of other countries have a PRC, Green-card, or some long term residency status for people who are not entitled to citizenship. So ‘underclass’ as you put it is a non-issue.

      Every country sets their own immigration laws that are suitable to that country without trampling on it’s own people.

      Stop with the LIES!! Stop trying to DECEIVE!!

      • just wondering says:

        but freedom of association and the right to family life are both basic human rights under the EHRA – ought not sam sex couples have the same rights as “hetero” couples?

    • I am glad that the human rights commission has spoken, because as what has been stated all along, this presents a slew of problematic issues, and we can not be seen determined and hell bent to changes laws on behalf of a selective few, without taking into consideration, the overall impact that it will have on the majority and even the few that the new legislation is trying to protect, will be harshly effected if the outcome is not in line with the acceptance of what the majority will accept.

      • Ed Case says:

        Perhaps we should base our laws on an ancient book written by unkowns, detailing fictitious beginnings and violent punishments such as stoning to death for relatively minor infractions.

        • Um Um Like says:


        • Daylily says:

          Too late Ed Case. Our marriage laws, constitution, judicial system and nearly every aspect of Bermudian life over the past 400 years have been influenced by the ancient book known as the Bible. Faith is as much a part of Bermuda’s rich culture, traditions and history as the Hog Penny, Gombeys and codfish and potatoes.

          To erase the Bible and religious influence, would mean to erase Bermuda as we know it.

          • Mike Hind says:

            Nonsense. Complete and utter, privileged nonsense.

          • Common Sense says:

            I have to question the accuracy of Daylily’s statement. It is not a criminal offence in Bermuda to commit adultery or for ‘men to lay with men’; these are two so-called ‘sins’ that are strictly prohibited in both the Old and New testaments, with adultery specifally mentioned in the Ten Commandments. Have just done a quick check and cant find even a passing reference to adultery in any of our law books!

            I’ve always been given to understand that “abominations” have set down our moral code, but a substantiual number of these are completely ignored, and some are considered laughable in this 21st century. Would be happy to quote examples.

            One of the greatest myths perpetuated on our society is that the bible sets the blueprint for our laws and our moral code. About the only time I hear the word “abominations” quoted is when religous folk are telling us to follow biblical teachings on the issues of homosexuality and SSM. That’s what one might call total hypocrisy.

          • Ed Case says:

            The sooner we do this the better. Religion poisons everything.

      • serengeti says:

        Duane, you would have fit in well in pre-war Germany, where ill-treating minorities was “popular” at the time, with hate whipped up by charismatic leadership. Fits you to a tee. You could have had a uniform, and you would have had god on your side and the majority on your side, no matter how evil and immoral your actions.

        Most of us have left behind those barbaric ways Duane, but you and people like you encourage them. What is more, you purport to do it in the name of religion. Just more evidence of how evil people can be when they do things “because god wants them to”. It’s the “justification” for all sorts of evil.

      • Mike Hind says:

        And yet, other than an easily and often debunked “slippery slope” argument, you guys never offer any examples of what the impact might be. Countless people have said what the positive outcomes will be, but these have been ignored by you all.

        And you last bit, “…even the few…”etc sounds very much like a threat.

  2. Well said Cow Polly. Under the oba/ubp lives do not matter. That party is bent on its own agenda, even if it is unfair to most Bermudians.They have repeated lived up to KILLING DEMOCRACY!!
    What a sad day for BERMUDIANS….the lies and the deceit take precedence over the lack of democracy!!

    • Um Um Like says:

      What a sad day for idiots!

    • Build a Better Bermuda says:

      Why are you limiting to the OBA, under the PLP they restricted the rights of Bermudians who married foreigners, refused to even acknowledge the same sex issues and while the OBA are looking to put a supremacy clause in the matrimony act, the PLP want to actually put a clause in the actual Human Rights Act that would allow for the creation of a list for the purpose of discrimination. During the PLP tenure, anybody who didn’t tow party line was ignored or dismissed as racist .. their favourite line in the HoA was 'get over it' or if called out on misdeeds 'plantation questions'… oh yeah, the PLP were great for our democracy too.

  3. Same Love Bermuda says:

    This is outrageous. We have notified the worldwide press. This is a serious affront to HUMAN RIGHTS. How dare the OBA GOVERNMENT attempt to legislate and “TRUMP” Human Rights.

    This will NOT stand.

  4. Christina says:

    Another division they trying to keep in place sad.

  5. Takbir Karriem Sharrieff says:

    Marriage of a male to a female ,man to a Woman has beeacknowledged by Humanity ever since it was introduced into society universally.Indeed the first known man and woman singular and plural accepted it and practiced it .Now today less than 15 years today it is being challenged by a very small minority of persons of same sex deviation who want to challenge this time honoured tradition.Yes we are blocking you,just like we are blocking incest,child pornography,sodomy,male and female going around improperly dressed in public etc,and a myriad of other behaviours and abberations that offend proper human behaviours.Get over it ,get back in your box,or closet or wherever you may be hiding because if we catch you or find you doing these things in the public arena.Yes we will punish you appropriately.Yes the majority rule in a civilised society.It is called Democracy I believe.You want to Practice …..Demon-Ocracy.Deviates.Peace.

    • Shame on you says:

      Shame on you Karriem. Hateful P-O-S. Lets take your rights away based on MY opinion that you do not deserve any rights? Would that be fair… Hell yes!

    • Shame on you says:

      And you live in a close minded world when you think the Minority want to be against equality…. Lets take it to a vote… You wouldve said Ireland would have been majority rule again SSM but hey-Ho – people are eveolved unlike yourself.

      I got some holes for you to dig

    • Mike Hind says:

      This is what hate speech looks like.

      “…we will catch you… We will punish you.”

      How is this kind of talk ok to anyone?

      This is sickening. It is sick.

      SSM opponents, please tell me that this kind of talk is not ok with you.

      • Quinton Berkely Butterfield says:

        It’s ok with them, they are probably glad someone is saying what they feel in their hearts.

    • Quinton Berkely Butterfield says:

      This is what pure evil looks like.

  6. Mike Hind says:

    It’s amazing that people are arguing AGAINST human rights…

  7. Takbir Karriem Sharrieff says:

    Talk that you hate,,,and think is disgusting,,,is because you hate Truth,,,,and your behaviour is Disgusting,,,,,Devious,,,,,Deviate,,,,,,,Devilish,,,.I will continue to punish you with truth and lash your backs with the Truth until I knock the brains out of falsehood.It is called ,,,get thee behind me Satan.Peace.

    • Quinton Berkely Butterfield says:

      Wow you’re like the KKK. Threatening violence if people don’t “stay in their place”. This is wow! I feel sad for you, you must suffer with so much hate and rage inside you. Everyone around you must suffer too having to deal with you. Sad indeed.

    • Mike Hind says:

      So violent.

      This is who is on your side, SSM opponents.

      You complain about being called bigots, yet remain silent when this kind of talk happens.

      Shame on you.

  8. nok says:

    Great news!

  9. Takbir Karriem Sharrieff says:

    Christians Muslims Jewish and other religious people,thank G-d, for them all,are commanded to hurl Truth against the heads of Falsehood until you knock its brains out.This is far better than you disbelievers and athiests that drop bombs on people ,and rockets,and use weapons of mass destruction ,lies and deceit to achieve your ends.Give me a person of religion any day .we just drop the truth on you and you are helpless to do anything about it.I love it Peace.