Column: ‘Not Allow Closed Mindedness To Win’

November 10, 2017 | 68 Comments

[Opinion column written by Michael Fahy]

Over a week ago, the Minister of Home Affairs, Walton Brown advised the Bermuda public that he would be introducing the Domestic Partnership Act 2017 following a 13 day period of consultation with stakeholders.

In short, the proposals will end the rights of same sex couples to enter in a marriage in Bermuda and will instead give all same sex and opposite sex couples the right to enter into a domestic partnership.

These proposals are eerily similar to the proposed Civil Union Act 2016 which was aimed solely at same sex couples. The latter bill was never voted upon following the failed referendum in respect of same sex marriage and civil unions in 2016.

As we all know the Supreme Court of Bermuda allowed same sex marriage in Bermuda, finding that the Registry General had discriminated against a same sex couple on the grounds of sexual orientation in failing to provide marriage services.

Michael Fahy Bermuda Nov 9 2017

In my view that should be that. The Human Rights Act says clearly that no one can be discriminated against on the grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of services and the Supreme Court confirmed this.

So it is surprising to me that a political party that has the very word “progressive” in its name would introduce what is now a regressive step in trying to essentially reverse this judgment.

It is even more surprising that it is being introduced by Walton Brown, a self-professed advocate of human rights. Let’s take a look at Walton Brown’s record before he became a Minister on the very issue of gay rights and then by extension the issue of same sex marriage over the last eight years. It is clear that the views are progressive but this most recent action not so much.

On 7th July 2009, following his participation in a Gay Pride Parade in the UK, Walton Brown called on politicians from both parties to “do the right thing” in respect of a proposed bill to include sexual orientation as a ground of protection in the Human Rights Act. He went on to say “As far as I am concerned this is the right thing to do for Bermuda specifically, and in general. I do not understand any position taken by any church that is against removing a discriminatory practice. I don’t know how anyone can interpret the Bible or the Koran in that way.”

A year later, on 16th July 2010, in response to a poll that showed a majority of Bermudians against same sex marriage Walton Brown is quoted as saying “Bermuda has been a very conservative society. I would always like to see those figures higher but Bermuda has not yet reached the point where the overwhelming majority accepts that everybody should be treated equally before the law. Marriage is seen by a large number of people as being something between a man and a woman and it has many significant ramifications for society as a whole, and at some point we need to have a discussion about that. My position is we need to live in a society in which all people are treated equally.”

Some ten months later, on 25th May 2011, Walton Brown penned a piece for the daily in which he said “We have not yet seen the courage to specifically set out sexual orientation as a protected category under the Human Rights Act. In the absence of this, there is no protection for gay, lesbian and transgender people against discrimination in the workplace, housing or in the delivery of services. There is an argument out there which posits that the Bermuda Constitution provides such protection without specifically mentioning sexual orientation and that there should be a test legal case to assert it. This is not good enough. If the Human Rights Act is to have meaning and applicability for all then change must begin here. Bermuda in the 21st century must first take this minimal step if we are to continue down the road to justice for all.”

On 17th August 2012 it was reported that Walton Brown attended an open mic event about gay rights. Walton Brown was apparently the first to step up to the mic and said “It’s really very simple. Anyone who has been victim of discrimination or oppression in any of its manifestations should not want to see discrimination or oppression against anyone else. The issue of sexual orientation strikes a sensitive chord among some sectors of the community. But the principle of respect applies in this area of sexual orientation just as they do in race, gender or religious freedom.”

On 4th July 2014 Hansard recorded that Walton Brown sent congratulations to the participants in the Gay Pride Parade in Toronto.

On 8th July 2016 Walton Brown voted against Wayne Furbert’s bill to outlaw same sex marriage. Hansard recorded the following in the debate:

“I cannot support any legislation which acts as an inhibitor to the further progression of rights. I know there is a sentiment out in the community which says Oh, these are not human rights. It is a contrived position. But, Madam Chair-man, every single society has seen the evolution of human rights over time. Every single community has seen that. What we take for granted today as human rights, certainly were not considered human rights 50 years ago or 100 years ago. So you cannot look at human rights as if it is some static concept. Who in this Parliament would want to bring back the death penalty because the public want it? Our responsibility is to lead. Our responsibility is to examine issues, debate issues, and decide whether or not we need to make appropriate amendments to make Bermuda a more just society.

Madam Chairman, I am hoping that we will have more Members speak on this issue. I know there is a lot of reticence on this issue. But we are elected to lead. Speak up! Articulate your position. We cannot pass this amendment. It is a retro-grade step. I see many Members having their moments of quiet reflection, Madam Chairman. But in those moments of quiet reflection I will say to them, think about what kind of a Bermuda do you want to create. What kind of Bermuda do you want to see when it comes to issues of human rights? Human rights are diverse. They are inclusive. We do not make headway by attacking others for their positions. But what we can do is try to provide more information, better information, so that Bermuda can move forward in the 21st century. I would encourage the Members not to sup-port this amendment.”

When you examine all these comments, they do not “marry up” with what Walton Brown is now doing. I have no doubt that in his heart Walton Brown believes same sex marriage is what must happen. His historical comments demonstrate as much.

At the open forum he said this Domestic Partnership Act is a “compromise” since he said “there is little appetite in Parliament today for validating same-sex marriages.” Well the referendum “result” showed there was little appetite for civil unions either! The proverbial horse has bolted and this compromise position, which perhaps was suitable a year ago, is no longer the way to go.

So instead of trying to find a supposed “compromise” on an issue that has already been decided upon by the Supreme Court I urge the Minister to follow his own words and lead! Let’s not be the only country to reverse rights gained, let’s not allow closed mindedness to win.

As he said “the principle of respect applies in this area of sexual orientation just as they do in race, gender or religious freedom.” Lead Minister, lead.

- Michael Fahy is a former Senator and Minister of Home Affairs.

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Comments (68)

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  1. i heart 441 says:

    Fahy, your point of views will be valid once you show the Bermuda public that you are working for the best interest of Bermudians!

    • Ok says:

      Like the PLP right?

      • Sigh says:

        Yes like the PLP.I am sorry you are still reelung from the floogung given you months ago, therefore some free advice: Get Over It!!!!

        As for Fahy – Yawn!!!

      • Sigh says:

        Ok, here’s a tip….you are NOT. Sorry you are still reelung over the flogging given you earlier this year but here’s a tip – Get Over It!!

    • Sorry Sir says:

      Fahy had been about the people all along. The idea’s he brought forward have either been successful or rehashed into a PLP initiative. Mini cars, private buses for certain routes, pathways. It’s all coming back full circle. Too bad people want to play politics and protest anything with an OBA label on it. Couple that with other facts, made him an easy target.

    • Clint Eastwood says:

      What you call ‘points of view’ are actually facts, which is why he has directly quoted Walton Brown throughout the article.

      You’re comment is meaningless.

  2. puzzled says:

    What an asinine statement.

  3. Frank says:

    Where are the Oba shadow ministers
    Are they allowed to speak or what
    First dunckley now fray well what has Bob got to say
    Some people still can not believe that the Oba lost
    The election just like they can not believe the hn and e

    Smiths is no more

    • PBanks says:

      Outside of Jeff Baron, which current OBA MP is a supporter of marriage equality? It’s likely none of the current group feels as passionately about the issue from a “for” angle.

  4. Follower says:

    Pray tell, seriously, how can he accomplish that since it seems no matter what he has said since Term Limits has been construed as anti Bermudian, even when it wasn’t. ..just as this column shouldn’t be open to interpretation but viewed as a statement of facts, which it is. People need to be asking themselves what is going on behind the scenes that someone who had been such a vocal proponent of equality should now advocate “fixing” something that isn’t broken. In fact, his proposal just destroys what was finally whole.

  5. BABS says:

    Fay Who??? Where you been??? LOL thought you had retreated to Canada. LOL

    • wahoo says:

      Would that suit the plp agenda? Dictators certainly do not want a guy like Fahy around or anyone else who tells it like it is. How you like dem AC numbers?

      • Snapper says:

        Yawn!!! Why don’t you take ago back to being a “backsbencher” and let someone who really matters speak wahoo and for heaven’s sake drag that drab Fahy with you!!!

    • Clint Eastwood says:

      Why would he retreat to Canada, Bermuda is his home.

      The man just states undeniable facts which people try to ignore by pretending he’s anti-Bermudian lol.

      • Dr.E.F.Gordon was born in Trinidad but his interest was fighting and defending for the rights of Bermudians.
        So ya point is?
        This guy publicly denounced anti-foreign bashing but NEVER mentioned about Bermudians being bashed by foreign bloggers.
        So de lesson of de story is, ya heart is where ya interest is.
        Have a safe Holiday.

        • wahoo says:

          You sound more foreign than anyone. Stop saying “de” you sound like an idiot.

        • Toodle-oo says:

          Where can I get a computer that shows the nationality/passports of all these (as you call them) ‘bloggers’ ?

      • Geronimo says:

        Bermuda is NOT his home!!!

    • Anbu says:

      Considering he is bermudian why would he?

  6. Navin Johnson says:

    Fahy does not get it….we want him to sit down and shut up….

  7. Former Union Member says:

    Mr. Fahy is simply reminding those with a failing memory of their past stance. I applaud anyone who will continue to point out the facts of our politicians previous comments.

  8. wha-gwan says:

    Fahy go far away please

  9. Mike Hind says:

    Lots of personal attacks on here and not a lot about what was said.

    I wonder why that is…

    • He said all he had to say for de last 5 years, thats why his @$$ got voted out.

      • Mike Hind says:

        And, as usual, this faceless coward makes my point.
        Taking potshots from behind the hood of anonymity, never actually saying anything true or real or fair.

        You are bad for our country, “Onion Juice”. Shame on you.

        • Wake up Bie says:

          How do you feel about voting for the oba… that didn’t support your cause. NOW WHO’S THE IDIOT??? LOLOL and don’t act you didn’t vote for them in July. They did nothing for your group!! The last UBP leader milkman didn’t even show up to vote but you still voted for them.

          • Mike Hind says:

            Why do you assume I voted OBA?
            Has anything I’ve ever posted shown any sort of support for them?
            Or is there something else that makes you make this assumption? Hmmm… let’s see… what could it be…

            This post is everything that’s wrong with politics in Bermuda… and politics in general these days.

            Some coward hiding under a hood, posting ignorant comments like they’re facts.

            It’s sad.

            • Ya, you ALWAYS critisized P.L.P. but NEVER critisized O.B.A.
              Next.

              • Mike Hind says:

                Nope. This is a lie.

                Please try honesty, “Onion Juice”.

                • Anbu says:

                  You are…. mike. Therefore in oj and the like’s eyes your opinions mean nothing. Sad reality of this country. Whilst your posts are almost always informed and intelligent, it matters not to some people. I say fling it back at them. Tit for tat bro.

        • Oh Lawd! says:

          Mike Hind, crawl back underneath a rock! Why do you honestly believe people care about your opinions! Now delusions of self grandeur are causing you to determine who is and isn’t bad for our country! Jesus take the wheel!

          • Mike Hind says:

            and here’s another coward making personal attacks while hiding behind a fake name.
            The only delusions around here are yours.
            I don’t have any delusions. I know for a fact that a bigot like “Onion Juice”, spreading lies and misinformation to promote his political agenda is bad for Bermuda.

            I love how you come at me for posting, yet think that it’s perfectly ok for you to do the same thing.

            At least I do it showing my face, unlike you, you pathetic clown.

            • bdaboy says:

              “I love how you come at me for posting, yet think that it’s perfectly ok for you to do the same thing.”

              they’re nothing but hypocrites.
              they got their rights, so screw everyone else. it’s selfish and greedy….a bermudian trait.

    • Tike Mind says:

      We don’t like him

  10. cpm says:

    How did EFGordon become Bermudian?

  11. Mike Hind says:

    All these posts and none of them talk about what he said…

    why is that?

    • The same way ya circle treated Dr.Gordon, Lois Brown Evans, Roosevelt Brown, Dr.Babara Ball, Ottie Simmons, Chris Furbert and Rev.Tweed (and they ALL had/have valid things to say), is de same way we’re gonna treat ya leaders.
      I think thats fair dont you?
      Or ya special privilege card wont allow it.

      • Mike Hind says:

        Nope. Another lie from you. A pathetic, hypocritical tantrum, lashing out instead of engaging. As usual.
        “My circle”? You don’t even have the courage to say “white people”!

        Grow up. Try some integrity. Stop behaving like the people you claim to fight against.

        It’s not ok when you do it. It’s not ok when anyone does it.
        It just makes you as bad as them.

      • Earth watch police says:

        Yah juice I know your compiling a list to start the next phase.

  12. Maxed Out says:

    I thought Fahy retired from politics. Has he changed his mind? Or just getting bored…

    • And just think we paid him $2000 a week for 5 years to make our lives harder.

      • Anbu says:

        And you r just a jealous little muppet cause u r too ignorant to ever achieve what he has!!

    • Zevon says:

      No, he’s just pointing out that current government ministers says one thing and do something else.
      Got a problem with that?

      • Maxed Out says:

        Yes, as a matter of fact. It was him and Dunk that lost it…

        • Maxed Out says:

          These were not even remotely competitive. Common sense would dictate get out of the way and let in those who stand a better chance of winning.

  13. Enough of Fahy! says:

    I can’t even bring myself to read this entire article. I am not against gay marriage in fact, I voted for it. But, I can’t read one more word written by Michael Fahy and I don’t want to hear him speak either. All he is does is talk, tell us what we should think, tell us why his opinion is more valid then everyone else’s and he doesn’t listen. He might be right sometimes, but he speaks down to people, those less educated them him, those more educated than him. You Mr. Fahy were never elected and The OBA gave you far too much power. You were one of the main reasons that the OBA was defeated. Somehow, you still think we want to hear your opinion, well …. WRONG. I didn’t want to hear you then, I don’t want to hear you now.

    • Keepin' it Real!...4Real! says:

      The Truth doesn’t change just because you don’t wanna hear it…

  14. Antlee says:

    Perhaps I am misinterpreting something. I agree that Walton Brown is an advocate for same-sex marriage as he clearly feels it the most fair and progressive way forwwrd as a nation. But he is being very transparent when he says there is presently a very low tolerance for it with the ruling party. And since Wayne Furbert plans on bringing a Private Bill to prevent same-sex, considering the PLP have such a large majority it is highly probable this Bill would pass with ease (at least in the Lower House). So I consider this move by Walton Brown a preemptive strike so to speak, that will greatly reduce the likelihood of same-sex marriage and/or civil unions being removed entirely as an option. Essentially, if this “compromise” bill isn’t successful, those who advocate SSM might end up getting nothing at all if Walton Brown does what he’s been promising to do. But again, I may be misinterpreting something.

    • Mike Hind says:

      Removing people’s rights isn’t a step forward.

    • Happy says:

      Except, like Fahy pointed out he constantly advocated for it and now its here he seems happy to walk it back as a “compromise”. Now you need to be a backbencher to put forward a private members bill so Furbert can’t bring it himself. So what is the need to rush this through now? If he can’t bring it is someone else proposing to bring forward a similar bill? If so why isn’t that being mentioned instead of Furbert’s bill. There are a lot of questions here and it seems that one way or the other the PLP want to get rid of SSM without actually saying so and are using what has already been made public knowledge (Furbert as a scapegoat). Now Brown’s bill looks like it’s here to fix this terrible thing that is going to happen, except if this bill is passed there is no need to bring the other bill. Hmmm.

    • Maxed Out says:

      Well said, politics being mostly the art of the possible. I’m pretty sure this is a painful dose of reality for Mr. Brown.

  15. Average Bermudian says:

    ??

    fey ???

    ??

  16. Frank says:

    Bring on furbert bill if passed it will put an end to all this
    And if they want to get married still they can go to Canada
    Out of 196 countries 26 have gay marriage bermuda is in the
    170 that Does not so what.
    Enough time has been wasted bermuda has more far important
    Things to deal with pass furbert bill.

    • Mike Hind says:

      And here we have the usual nonsense from “Frank”…

      Nothing real here. Nothing relevant, just hateful, disgusting bile.

      The time wasted is by people like him who want to discriminate for absolutely no reason whatsoever.
      They’re wrong and they know it. They just don’t care who they hurt.

    • Mike Hind says:

      One more country, Australia, is on the way to having Marriage Equality…
      Your ad populum argument, invalid to begin with, is falling apart.

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