Human rights campaigners claim marriage rights not their focus

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Same sex marriage is a separate issue from measures to amend the Human Rights Act to prohibit sexual orientation discrimination, says the Rainbow Alliance.

But the campaign group known as Two Words and a Comma, which has led the movement for the sexual orientation amendment since 2006, is maintaining silence on the issue of marriage equality.

Following Opposition Leader Marc Bean’s statement last week that many are concerned that the final goal of the sexual orientation amendment is legalisation of same sex marriage, we asked human rights advocates for a response.

Only the Rainbow Alliance and the Centre for Justice offered a statement.

“We are a collective, focused on creating a safer and more comfortable environment for Bermuda’s LGBTQ population. Our focus isn’t on marriage, but on challenging the greater problems and prejudices the LGBTQ community faces. Some within the LGBTQ community would welcome discussion on marriage equality, but others are indifferent. These are two separate issues,” a Rainbow Alliance spokesperson said.

In an interview with The Royal Gazette on May 17, Mr Bean said that other jurisdictions which had outlawed sexual orientation discrimination had “quickly moved towards a move to same sex marriage”.

He questioned the motives of campaigners in Bermuda saying they had succumbed to “external influences”.

“For instance two years ago, this issue of two words and a comma was an issue in Bermuda. But since then it’s not really been an issue. The focus has been on same sex marriage and that is coming from external influences,” Mr Bean said.

“So to claim there is a distinction or separation between the two, many feel that this is actually just a logical step from sexual orientation to a quest for same sex marriage and so naturally you are going to get a lot of resistance from people — not necessarily all from the church — but people who have a moral bearing within their own conscience of what they see as right or wrong, and they will see it as a slippery slope.”

Mr Bean said his view was based on his own examination of other jurisdictions.

“All I see is a move toward same sex marriage and so, yes, that is a concern. And it’s more concerning because people are not honest. I do have a colleague who got up in caucus and said it straight up — ‘look, the agenda at the end of the day is same sex marriage’ and I appreciated that honesty. What I do not appreciate is people saying one thing and their intention is something different.”

He continued: “You could go on Wikipedia and see sexual orientation and it will tell you that the end game is same sex marriage. That’s not a hidden issue. It’s not something that people outside of this country who are dealing with gay rights hide. But in Bermuda we are tiptoeing around the issue.”

Venous Memari, managing director of the Centre for Justice said: “The suggestion that the amendment creates a ‘slippery slope’ has a negative connotation and we believe anything that gets us to fully equality is a good thing. That said, the ‘end game’ for anyone who is at risk of losing their job or housing is the protection of the law which this amendment seeks to do.”

Two Words and a Comma is yet to respond to our query.

The view that prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation could lead to legalisation of same sex marriage is shared by some key figures in the religious community.

Last week, Bishop Lloyd Duncan of the New Testament Church of God, told The Royal Gazette that he feared that the law change would –“open the door” to same sex marriage.

And a statement issued by two pastors of the AME Church made reference to “legislation that threatens the traditional family structure and erodes Bermuda society as a whole” in explaining their opposition to the amendment.

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Published May 30, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated May 29, 2013 at 9:59 pm)

Human rights campaigners claim marriage rights not their focus

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