Jump in support for Human Rights Act changes

Three quarters of registered voters agree that sexual orientation discrimination should be made unlawful, according to the latest poll.

Government has now been urged by human rights advocates to end a “policy of dithering and deflection” around the issue.

Youth Families and Sport Minister Glenn Blakeney said that the results were a reflection of Government led publicity on the issue.

Research firm MindMaps interviewed a sample of 400 Bermuda residents aged 18 years and over between September 11 and September 16.

Qualified respondents were registered voters who said they were likely to vote and the margin of error was 4.9 percent.

The data was weighted to be representative of Bermuda’s population by age, race and gender.

The survey found that 75 percent of respondent responded “yes” to the question “Should the Human Rights Act be amended to prohibit discrimination in employment, goods and services offered to the general public, and housing on the basis of sexual orientation?”

Eighteen percent said “no” and another eight percent said they did not know.

“It was always self-evident that an amendment to the HRA is needed because it is the right thing to do,” said a Rainbow Alliance spokesperson in reaction to the survey findings.

“However, it is heartening to know that the vast majority of Bermudian voters agree. It is our expectation that the Government will now abandon a policy of dithering and deflection not shared by the Bermudian public.”

Successive administrations have made promises but repeatedly failed to amend the Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

A proposed Equality Act which would provide such protection among others, was debated as a take note motion in July and received multipartisan support.

Mr Blakeney brought that motion to the House of Assembly to gauge support for measures to protect people from age and sexual orientation discrimination.

“I think it went a long way in getting the topics in the public realm, front and centre” he said yesterday.

Mr Blakeney added that his media appearances explaining the issues also helped the public understand clearly what was being proposed.

“I think the country has matured to the degree of understanding that people are people are people regardless of any circumstance whether it be their sexual orientation or their race or physical challenges. They deserve to have the same basic protection under the law when it comes to particular areas, as human beings.”

The Minister added that many did not realise that “reverse discrimination,” where gay people in decision making positions discriminate against straight people, could occur.

And he noted that under certain circumstances — such as landlords who live on their own property — discrimination is not prohibited.

“As far as their privacy is concerned, you have that right to say because of my lifestyle, my values, I do not want that person with that lifestyle on my property.”

He added: “I think we’ve found a balance and because we’ve explained it, Bermudians now feel there’s some balance there and I can live with that.”

The Minister said that the Government’s emphasis on equality moves the discussion to principles and away from emotions.

But Mr Blakeney stressed that Government “is not prepared to consider anything that would represent same sex marriage”.

“With our traditions and our culture and hugely conservative population, there is certainly no support to any great degree for that.”

The Human Rights Act already prohibits discrimination on a number of grounds including race, sex, religion, and criminal record.

Support for the amendment is strongest among 55 — 64 year olds (83 percent), the survey found. But adults 65 and over were less likely (63 percent) to believe the Act should be amended. They also registered the strongest “no” votes (25 percent)

Among the Island’s youngest voters (18 — 34 year olds) 73 percent agreed the Act should be amended, 21 percent said it should not and six percent said they did not know.

Female respondents were more likely (78 percent) than males (70 percent) to support the amendment, the survey found.

Fifteen percent said the Act should not be amended, while another seven percent said they did not know.

Of the male respondents, 21 percent opposed the amendment and nine percent did not know.

There was little significant difference between the races — 78 percent of white voters said the Act should be amended, compared to 73 percent of black voters.

Black and white voters were equally as likely (17 percent) to say it should not be amended, but black voters were more likely (ten percent) than white voters (four percent) to say they did not know.

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Published Sep 27, 2012 at 8:00 am (Updated Sep 27, 2012 at 8:10 am)

Jump in support for Human Rights Act changes

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