Bill's supporters stunned by defeat

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Supporters of Renee Webb's bill to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation told last night of their dismay that it was kicked out of Parliament.

Those watching the debate from the public gallery looked shocked as they filed out of the House of Assembly yesterday afternoon.


Supporters of Renee Webb's bill to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation told last night of their dismay that it was kicked out of Parliament.

Those watching the debate from the public gallery looked shocked as they filed out of the House of Assembly yesterday afternoon.

The leader of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which opposed the bill, said the church members' prayers had been answered.

One 42-year-old man who supported the bill said of the MPs: "Surely they are elected to formulate change. When it comes to being held accountable for their views, they were silent.

"I think so many times they refuse to take action on those issues that have a betterment for society."

He added: "A lot of discrimination is subtle. It's hard to prove."

Another man in his 20s said discrimination against gays was rife in the Bermuda Regiment, in which he had formerly served. "It's the most homophobic environment that exists.

"You are forced to serve, you are forced to do it, yet there is no legislation to protect from that type of thing. Here I am having served my Country that doesn't acknowledge my basic human rights.

"I have been discriminated against in the past. There is nothing I can do about it. If I were to go to the Human Rights (Commission) and say I was discriminated against, I would have no grounds."

Both men asked that their identities not be revealed.

The younger man said: "My biggest worry about mentioning my name is physical violence. I have had verbal threats.

"There is also the concern that you could be denied housing. Those are the sorts of things that we are vulnerable to and there is nothing in law to protect us. It's a shame that previous examples of discrimination were not brought up in the house."

Peter Carpenter, a gay man who was a supporter of the Stubbs Bill of 1994, which decriminalised homosexuality, said: "All I can say is I'm very, very disappointed.

"I'm disappointed that our MPs did not appear to possess the ability to distinguish between behaviour they may or may not approve of and a human being's basic rights regarding equality in the community."

Mr. Carpenter, a teacher, added: "I'm a law abiding and highly functioning member of this community. You can't begin to imagine my resentment that I'm not recognised on the same level as everyone else."

He said the bill seemed to have been "abruptly swept aside, even to the surprise of Ms Webb".

"I'm very surprised that those MPs who previously expressed their support and recognition of the impact of this amendment had nothing to say in her favour.

"I can only assume that that means it is not sufficiently important to them."

Ms Webb said: "The thing is people don't have any conviction. I would have thought it was important that the country know what their elected members thought of human rights."

The Rev. Malcolm Eve, presiding elder of the AME Church, which opposed the bill, said: "I am just glad it went the way it did. We prayed about it and the Lord intervened. That's who my trust was in."

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