HRC “Disappointed” Legislation Been Introduced

November 20, 2017 | 41 Comments

The Human Rights Commission is “disappointed that the proposed legislation has been introduced after the case law on same sex marriage has been settled in Bermuda,” which “means that the proposed legislation is a de facto removal of rights from same sex couples by relegating their unions to a separate category which may not be recognized abroad.”

HRC Human Rights Commission Bermuda TC Nov 20 2017 2

Government Proposes Domestic Partnerships Bill

Earlier this month the Government began consultation on the draft Domestic Partnerships Bill, which the Government said will “essentially replace same-sex marriage with a domestic partnership arrangement which can be entered into by both same-sex and heterosexual couples.”

Speaking at a Town Hall the Government held earlier this month, Home Affairs Minister Walton Brown said, “Why is this being done? It is being done for one very simple reason. The status quo, which allows for same-sex marriage, is embraced by one segment of the community; it is not embraced by another.

“We have a set of circumstances in which, one member representing a majority of Members in Parliament, is intent or has been intent, on proposing a Private Members Bill which would outlaw same sex marriage.

“Not a Party Bill, not a Government Bill; a Private Member’s Bill. If that Bill is tabled, or would be tabled, it will command the support of a majority of Members of Parliament, because a majority of Members of Parliament do not support same sex marriage.

“If that Bill was to pass, same sex couples would have no legal protections whatsoever; that is the political reality. And so, despite what anyone may feel about what is the appropriate thing to do – and we could have a very intense debate about that – that is the political reality.

“What this Government is doing is ensuring that same sex couples do in fact have a wealth of legal benefits, because of what would happen if we do nothing,” the Minister said.

90-minute live video replay of the Govt’s Town Hall held earlier this month

Human Rights Commission Comment

A Human Rights Commission spokesperson said, “The Human Rights Commission has held a longstanding view that, at a minimum, Bermuda should have a form of legal recognition of same sex couples functionally equivalent to marriage for those who wish to commit to each other in this way.

“Our view is informed by the European Convention on Human Rights which have ruled that same sex couples have a right to have legally recognized partnerships which provide the same rights and privileges obtaining to traditional marriages.

“We feel the proposed Domestic Partnership Act makes a sincere effort to create a legal category which is functionally equivalent to marriage and we understand but are unhappy with the political reality in Bermuda where such a proposal is necessary to avoid rights being stripped away completely by legislation such as the Human Rights Amendment Act proposed by Junior Minister of Finance, Mr. Wayne Furbert.

“We also feel strongly that controversial issues should be given a consultation period longer than the current two weeks to allow for a comprehensive analysis and feedback from the public and other stakeholders. Public debate on such issues should be held at neutral venues such as schools or government buildings and not religious venues where people may feel [or be] intimidated by the setting or attendees.

“However, the Commission is disappointed that the proposed legislation has been introduced after the case law on same sex marriage has been settled in Bermuda per the Godwin and Deroche Supreme Court case and that, presently, same sex marriage is legal in Bermuda.

“This means that the proposed legislation is a de facto removal of rights from same sex couples by relegating their unions to a separate category which may not be recognized abroad. This is particularly important given the extent to which Bermudians travel abroad for vacation and for medical reasons. Moreover, a key part of our tourism product as a wedding destination would be undermined by the proposed change.

“The Commission recognizes that many in our community are strongly against the idea of same sex marriage or will not endorse a same sex marriage because of their religious beliefs and that still others are deeply uncomfortable with the thought of such unions as incompatible with their moral beliefs.

“We also recognize that there are sectors of our religious community that are supportive of same sex marriage and the public debate has been caricatured to ignore this fact. Everyone has a right to hold beliefs opposing same sex marriage so long as they do not incite harm or promote hate through their speech or actions.

“However, individuals have a right to be treated equally and be protected from discrimination regardless of how unpopular such rights are and how small the number of people who hold those rights may be.

“The Domestic Partnership Act offers the ability for same sex couples and heterosexual couples to form a legal partnership which would afford them most of the rights afforded to traditional marriages. The ways in which it differs from the rights of traditional marriage are significant:

Microsoft Word - 171120 HRC Press Statement - Domestic Partnersh

“There are other less material issues which we have raised to the Minister’s attention and a full list can be obtained by contacting the Human Rights Commission.

“We applaud Minister Brown’s intentions and genuine effort to provide protection for and recognition of same sex unions but are dismayed by the fact that he feels motivated to do so under perceived threat by other members of the House who wish to remove already established rights obtaining to those couples.

“The world is watching. If we are truly to embrace the progressive mantle, we must protect everyone from discrimination and inequality.”

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Comments (41)

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  1. Community First says:

    Thank you Bermuda HRC for elevating our discussion and responding to the recent position by our Minister and our Bermuda Government.

    The drive to step back on issues of Diversity and Inclusion on our island demonstrates that we don’t hold all areas of Diversity as equally valid, important and worthy of protection under law.

    Of the nine diversity areas recognized globally, we protect only a few on our island. What does that say about our efforts towards equality and social justice?

    Here are the nine areas: Age, Gender, Religion, Sexual Orientation, Race, Ethnicity, Class, Disability, and Nationality.

  2. Joe Bloggs says:

    The underlying premise of the Human Rights Commission is that gay people are human and deserve all the same rights as all other humans.

    The underlying premise of the Government appears to be different.

    • Toodle-oo says:

      The underlying premise of this government is all about votes .

      • Beautiful says:

        Last I checked the OBA was also about votes. That’s why they didn’t give you male on male marriage.

        Now go back to sleep.

        • bill says:

          don’t forget female on female we don’t want folks thinking u are ignorant

        • Toodle-oo says:

          It’s why the OBA didn’t mess with the judges’ ruling . That was a neutral move compared to Walton’s regressive proposal .

          You should sleep on that .

      • So what do you think Majority and Democracy have in common?
        SMH

        • Politricks says:

          But when the OBA had the majority, you claimed that they acted dictatorial in their decision making.

          OJ you are a racist joke, that’s not even remotely funny.

          • Joe Bloggs says:

            *looks up 2 posts* Umm, what did OJ say to make himself a “racist joke”?

            I am not above contradicting OJ, but I think, Politicks, you are WAY off side this time.

            If you are playing the race card willy nilly like that you have obviously run out of rational argument.

            • Politricks says:

              I suggest you read the thousands of posts that OJ has penned as opposed to just looking at two.

              My personal favorite was him stating ‘disgusting European culture’ when it comes to homosexuality.

              So yes my opinion stands.

              • Toodle-oo says:

                OJ is ‘clickbait’
                I have a feeling that you’ll get it but I doubt that most others will .

        • nerema says:

          The majority do not have the power to obliviate human rights for everyone else.

          • Joe Bloggs says:

            Actually, the majority of Bermudians (myself included) has the power to elect the Government and the Government (in which I play no part) has the power to take away the “human” right of a gay person to marry the partner of his or her choice.

            That is what this whole thread is about.

            • Mike Hind says:

              No. They don’t. That’s what the judge ruled.

              The duty of the Government is to protect the minority from the oppression of the majority.

              Marriage may not be a human right, but equal access to rights is.

  3. Truth is killin’ me... says:

    HRC…looks like you ain’t got no teeth dealing with the present Gov’t. Ain’t that SAD!! DEAL WITH IT!!!

    • Mike Hind says:

      Are you seriously gloating about the Human Rights Commission losing power and influence?
      The Human Rights Commission. The folks fighting for equality and fairness. THAT’s who you’re gloating about…

  4. Kevin says:

    Wayne Flip Flop Furbert wants people to remember him for doing something in his political career ,Nothing else he has done is even noteworthy but what a memory for all of your children and their children’s children to remember you by.. But to be clear if anytime in the future another MP wanted they can introduce a same Sex marriage bill and his will no longer be relevant

  5. alistair says:

    Totally agree with the HRC and as far as the consultation is concerned – that is a sham. If Govt was interested in consultation they would have prepared a white paper – they seem to be sadly missing over the last few years

  6. Cow Polly says:

    Disappointed? What will it take to make your organisation OUTRAGED?????

  7. Reuben says:

    So if this bill passes does this not put the Bermuda Government in contempt of court given that it does not meet the judge’s ruling?

  8. Can you get MILK from a BULL? NO says:

    This was the best thing the OBA did for Bermuda.

    Bill On Same Sex Marriage Defeated In Senate

    The Human Rights Amendment 2016 — which seeks to maintain marriage as being defined as between a man and a woman — has been defeated in the Senate, with 6 Senators voting against the Bill, while 5 voted in favour of it

    The Bill had already passed in the House of Assembly, however it failed to pass in the Senate this afternoon with James Jardine [IND], Michael Fahy [OBA], Georgia Marshall [OBA], Jeff Baron [OBA], Lynn Woolridge [OBA] and Kim Wilkerson [PLP] all voting against it.

    YES VOTES

    Joan Dillas-Wright [IND]
    Vic Ball [OBA]
    Marc Daniels [PLP]
    Renee Ming [PLP]
    Carol Bassett [IND]

    NO VOTES

    James Jardine [IND]
    Michael Fahy [OBA]
    Georgia Marshall [OBA]
    Jeff Baron [OBA]
    Lynn Woolridge [OBA]
    Kim Wilkerson [PLP]

  9. 21st Century says:

    Note the irony of the Government public forum held in the E.F. Gordon Memorial Hall, named after a man who fought for equal rights.

  10. spider says:

    Now that same sex couples relationships have legal recognition I believe not allowing them to marry violates the Human Rights Act 1981 Article 2 by denying them access to the same contract (marriage) afforded to heterosexual couples. Looking forward to the legal challenges to the new redefinition of marriage afforded to same sex couples.

    • ramblings says:

      I believe that section 48 (2) gives this act precedent over the HRA… These guys are doing the best to make the HRA a worthless bit of legislation!!

  11. bill says:

    the Governor needs to stop this nonsense and waste of money on something that is already passed law that money is needed badly where it matters wake up folks we are being hoodwinked and smoked screened by this issue Mr. brilliance need to give us a debt update as it ddi not magically disappear

    • Lualaba says:

      Crown intervention is exactly what the PLP want… independence wil be around the corner

  12. Rocky5 says:

    There will be negative economic consequences but – 24 – 12 – PLP have the power to do whatever they want, case closed until enough people wake up…

    • Joe Bloggs says:

      Umm, Rocky, I think the people spoke in July. Do you think they were asleep when voting?

      You may not like the PLP Government right now, but they are the Government that we Bermudians (by a majority) chose to govern us.

  13. Rocky5 says:

    One more thing – the current HRC will ALL be replaced in January by PLP People

    • Appollo Creed says:

      That’s is true because all the people are leaving the oba/UBP. I tried my best to work with you OBA guys but the truth of the matter is you don’t care about certain segment on this Island. Still fronting surrogates to to act like leaders. The new leader is equal to watching paint dry.

  14. clearasmud says:

    This all seems a bit late from the HRC since they previously supported same sex marriage on human rights grounds even though they acknowledge now that all that was ever needed was equal legal rights. They sat back as the former government dropped the ball so they have lost some credibility.

  15. Mika says:

    I hear Wayne want to be head of the HRC

  16. JUNK YARD DOG says:

    This Has nothing to do with legality, it is about morality .

    We voted against the deed !

    • Mike Hind says:

      Discrimination for absolutely no reason is immoral.

      Shame on you.

    • bdaboy says:

      “We voted against the deed !”

      The majority were against interracial marriage and the abolishing of slavery.
      We should revisit that and reverse those rulings as well….that would make you and the rest of the bigoted plp happy.

  17. rene says:

    Its unfortunate the PLP didnt take a stronger stance with this issue. If you read the Marriage Act, government grants licenses to members of the clergy, ships captains and in lieu of these options government allows you to marry via the Registrar General. This gives individuals who may have no religious affiliation the opportunity to marry. Similarily if you ever have to be in court to give evidence you have the option to swear on the Bible or Affirm to tell the truth. So clearly the Marriage Act was never intended to be available only to members of the Faith and thus has no religious significance. Thus for one group, “Preserve Marriage” to claim heterosexual marriage demeans marriage, is to claim a monopoly on an institution they dont own. Unfortunately the PLP didn’t honor the intent of the existing legislation in this regard.

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