House: Civil Union Act Consultation Draft Tabled

March 3, 2016

Minister of Community, Culture and Sports Patricia Gordon-Pamplin tabled a draft consultation copy of the Civil Union Act 2016 in the House of Assembly, which seeks to make provision for the formalisation of a relationship between same sex adult couples.

Speaking in the House of Assembly on Monday, Minister Gordon-Pamplin said, “I am tabling a draft consultation copy of the Civil Union Act 2016. Two weeks ago, I also tabled the bill entitled the “Matrimonial Causes Amendment Act 2016.”

“The Matrimonial Causes Amendment Act 2016 seeks to confirm that notwithstanding the Human Rights Act 1981, marriage remains exclusively a relationship between a man and a woman.

The Minister added, “We have had some members of this House in conversation, indicate that while they might support equality for same sex couples, they would not support this bill as the politics are too thorny.

“We have had others, Mr. Speaker, indicate that they do not support equality for same sex couples and some who support full equality.

“Nevertheless, Mr. Speaker, a Government has an obligation to address issues within our community and, due to significant court rulings and the need for action, we have chosen to table this consultative bill while further consideration is given to feedback from our colleagues and the public at large.”

The Bill’s Explanatory Memorandum says, “This Bill seeks to make provision for the formalisation and registration of a relationship between same sex adult couples, to be known as a civil union”.

On the same day this was tabled, Premier Michael Dunkley announced that Government intends to table a referendum bill so that the “people of this country can express their opinions on same-sex marriage and civil unions via a referendum.”

The Minister’s full statement follows below:

Good morning Mr. Speaker,

This morning I am tabling a draft consultation copy of the Civil Union Act 2016. Two weeks ago, I also tabled the bill entitled the “Matrimonial Causes Amendment Act 2016.”

In essence Mr. Speaker, the Matrimonial Causes Amendment Act 2016 seeks to confirm that notwithstanding the Human Rights Act 1981, marriage remains exclusively a relationship between a man and a woman.

The consultation draft Civil Union Act 2016, Mr. Speaker seeks to make provision for the formalization and registration of a relationship between same sex couples, to be known as a “civil union”.

Mr. Speaker, I think it’s important to highlight the Government’s process regarding this important matter.

Mr. Speaker, from receipt of a petition in May of 2015, this Government committed to hearing all sides of the issues related to same-sex marriage and civil unions.

We have taken great care and sensitivity to consult the people of Bermuda and provide them with a forum to share their views.

Mr. Speaker, late last year and up until recently- just two weeks ago in fact- the Government held a series of information sessions to share with the public our extensive research regarding other jurisdictions’ approach to same-sex marriage and civil unions.

Mr. Speaker, we also used the opportunity in each of those public sessions to provide an overview and clarity about our international legal obligations arising under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Mr. Speaker, since our meetings last October and subsequent meetings two weeks ago, there have been some passionate, vocal and even heart-wrenching views, opinions and experiences expressed by members of the public and local advocacy groups for and against same sex marriage and civil unions.

Mr. Speaker, also added into this mix is a significant legal ruling which has looming human rights implications and as such, this Government has had to look at this matter with more urgency.

Mr. Speaker, I am referring to the Supreme Court Ruling regarding the Bermuda Bred Company vs Minister of Home A/fairs and Attorney General.

The ruling issued by the Supreme Court on 27th November 2015 in favour of the Bermuda Bred Company means that the non-Bermudian same-sex partners of Bermudians, who are in permanent relationships, are entitled to live and work in Bermuda free of immigration control.

Mr. Speaker, the Chief Justice’s declaration in the “Bermuda Bred” case comes into effect today, 29 February 2016.

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned earlier, before any decision was taken as a Government, it was necessary to take steps to extensively research how various jurisdictions have sought to approach and reconcile this matter.

We committed to sharing this information with our people and we have genuinely sought to hear from all sectors of the community on this issue and incorporate their views as we take the next steps.

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that as it relates to same-sex marriage and civil unions, the decisions are complex and difficult for many in our community.

Mr. Speaker, we have had some members of this House in conversation, indicate that while they might support equality for same sex couples, they would not support this bill as the politics are too thorny. We have had others, Mr. Speaker, indicate that they do not support equality for same sex couples and some who support full equality.

Nevertheless, Mr. Speaker, a Government has an obligation to address issues within our community and, due to significant court rulings and the need for action, we have chosen to table this consultative bill while further consideration is given to feedback from our colleagues and the public at large.

It is important that matters relating to our requirement to provide a framework to ensure right to family life as laid down by the courts is evidenced by our actions and can show the courts that we are looking for the best way to move forward.

Thank you Mr. Speaker.

 

The Civil Union Bill 2016  Consultation Draft follows below [PDF here]:

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Comments (37)

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  1. Unbelievable says:

    I don’t understand why table the civil union legislation and table the SSM referendum legislation as well on the same day.

    • Lois Frederick says:

      I gather from listening to Patricia Gordon Pamplin in the House last night, it is her hope, that having the debate about CUs in the House, will help inform the People about CUs and they might end up supporting that position in the Referendum. She said that many people disagreed with the idea of CUs without knowing what it even meant. I hope she is right. While I don’t like the route of a Referendum, I fully understand the politics surrounding this issue and understand why they are taking this route.

      • Family Man says:

        It means separate, but equal … sort of.

    • This Bull S!@# is not a part of African Culture.

      • Mr Sparkle says:

        And who cares? No cultural view should be treated any differently than another – we should respect everyone, not just your myopic view.

      • LiarLiar says:

        Yes it is.

        Know your history.

      • Mike Hind says:

        Shhh. You’ve been shown many times that you’re wrong.

        Spreading a lie, over and over again, won’t make it true.

      • lalalalala says:

        Are we in Africa?

  2. jt says:

    As far as I know most members of that House, or the Senate have had the courage to declare where they stand on this issue. Very few have.

  3. SANDGROWNAN says:

    Shame on the OBA, shame on them and all that will deny people their rights.

    A referendum is plain wrong.

    • Just One says:

      I think that, based on the comments on this site, the same sex folks will get what they want, assuming that the audience of Bernews is an equal representation of registered Bermudians voters in general. We shall see…

  4. Takbir Karriem Sharrieff says:

    Male and Male living together,is not the problem!Female and female living together is not the problem.If they are kissing each other,fondling each other,sleeping with each other,making love with each other ,in my sight,on my property ,in a space which I control ,know that they will get out of my space,off my Property,and outta my face,and the face of my family………………

    • Mike Hind says:

      Too late. They can already do that, legally.

      • Joe Public says:

        Too late for you 2. The referendum is coming thank you OBA.

        • Mike Hind says:

          Um. Nope. You’re wrong.
          What he’s talking about is already legal. Keep up.

          • Joe Public says:

            Um nope! I’m talking about the referendum. So keep up with my Government. Thank you OBA for listening to the people.

    • Starting Point says:

      Do you often have people fondling each other, sleeping with each other and making love with each other – in your sight? and within sight of or the face of your family?

      You some kind of pervert?

      • Unbelievable says:

        Or much less on his property? hahah nerd

    • jt says:

      So you support civil unions.

    • hmmm says:

      Wouldn’t that be the same for a heterosexual couple enaging in sexual activites on your property or in your face space ?????

      Takbir, you seem obsessed with sexual activity. I suggest seeking help.

      • SANDGROWNAN says:

        LOL, the people most obsessed with same sex activity are those most vociferous against SSM. I think they protest too much.

        • serengeti says:

          I agree. The people most obsessed with food are the starving and the morbidly obese.

      • Cup Match couple.
        Mmmmm
        If two guys did that I think it would’ve been a pretty ugly outcome.

        • Mike Hind says:

          Another thinly-veiled threat of violence.

          Lovely.

        • mike says:

          Of course it is all well and good that a hetrosexual couple engaged in that activity.

    • Terry says:

      I have known you 50 years Takbir.
      Your Muslim convictions need some fine tuning.
      Shalom.

    • serengeti says:

      So you’re ok with them marrying each other as long as it’s not on your property. Well, if that’s right, then we seem to be getting somewhere.

    • Ed Case says:

      Takbir, clearly you have a problem and should talk to someone. I can give you the number of a good psychiatrist. Obsessing this much over other people’s bedroom activities is not healthy. Get the help you need now.

    • Anbu says:

      Turn your computer off bro. Sounds like you’re into some kinky stuff there.

    • sebring says:

      with a name like yours they would deserve what they get if they patronize your business or visit your home that is why gays in general should close the doors on hiring , and patronizing people and organizations with believes like yours ! I will guarantee you they have the upper hand !

  5. Forethebest says:

    I believe it to be wrong that politicians attempt to make themselves popular with certain voters by denying basic human rights to others.

  6. Starting Point says:

    So we seem to have both the OBA and PLP deciding that they are for human rights with one exception, that in the case of same sex marriage. And we have the ‘highly educated, and in no way just a religious group’ the preserve marriage folks seemingly in agreement. All standing behind the feeling that a healthy child can only be raised in a home with a mom and a dad.

    It then only makes sense that these three organizations push forward to protect children by legislating that only a man and a woman in a recognized marriage as per the marriage act, may have and rear children. As the key argument from all the groups is that child safety is the priority, it would be hypocritical if they did not bring legislation forward to protect children from these vile single parent households.

    or maybe its that they just find same sex marriage ‘icky’…

    sigh.

  7. cowards says:

    what wimps the OBA are. disgusted

  8. Build a Better Bermuda says:

    A complete waste of time to pay someone to draft this. Just fix the existing legislation to remove the discriminating sections. People are free to define marriage as they want, religions are free to define marriages as they want, but the standing of of marriage in law has to/must be equal to all who would commit to it. A marriage license carries with it legal rights and protections that must be applied equally under the law to those who would commit to it; this continued failure to recognize the deference between a religion definition and the requirements of the legal standings in a democracy is failing Bermuda and Bermudians on a whole. No one individual or group should ever be able to deny or void legal rights from another individual or group in a democracy, irregardless of majority consensus. The driving principle of democracy is equality under law, this is why there is a Human Rights Act, lessons learned from the past to ensure that rights are never denied to people again. Now we have the Civil Union Act, that by its very statute is establishing discrimination as it can only be for same sex couples; it is effectively saying that you can’t drink from our water fountain, so here is your own, separate and not equal. What if a different gender couple want a civil union rather than a marriage? Adding a supremacy clause to the existing legislation will ultimately fail as it is still an illegal violation of the Human Rights Act, that ultimately will fall before the courts; and for even further insult and degeneration, putting a discrimination list in the legislation that outlaws discrimination is even more undemocratic and an illegal violation of the Act, that too will ultimately fall before the courts.
    All 36 members in the HoA are there to uphold the principles of democracy, it doesn’t matter how they feel religiously or personally, they are responsible for protection the equal legal rights of all who live and come to our shores, so it is time for them to step up to their higher responsibility and just grant marriage equality. Democracy demands it.

  9. lalalalala says:

    So basically they have taken the Marriage Act and changed the words… Thing I don’t understand is that a marriage IS a Civil Union. What a waste of time and money!!!

  10. Coffee says:

    Some laws should never change or be amended .