Former MP supports equality for all’
Electoral concerns should not sway the Bermuda Government from pressing ahead with same-sex marriage, according to former Progressive Labour Party MP Renee Webb.
Ms Webb, who struggled unsuccessfully under the PLP Government to bring human rights protection for homosexuals before Parliament, said she “absolutely” supported legalising same-sex marriage.
“I do not adhere to cherry-picking human rights issues,” she told ‘The Royal Gazette’. “I support equality for all within the context of the law.
“It is a government’s job to assure that laws recognise equality in all forms. Marriage is no different.”
She said this week’s ‘Royal Gazette’ survey of voters, showing a narrow majority supporting the unions and 59 per cent saying society should accept homosexuals, signified that more people saw it as a human rights issue. Ms Webb also conceded that the fear of losing votes had impeded politicians from taking a stand.
“This was the case in 2006, when I brought the amendment to the Human Rights Act to include sexual orientation, and is the case now.”
However, she remained firm that the matter should be decided by Bermuda’s legislators, rather than having to be challenged in court. Ms Webb said she hoped to see the One Bermuda Alliance announce a motion for same-sex marriage to go before Parliament, calling it “the courageous thing to do”.
“There will be a few PLP members who will support the motion. The PLP would make it a conscience vote for their members.”
She added: “Personally, I think the wise thing for them to do is to have the courage, as they did in the case of the sexual orientation amendment, to make same-sex marriage into human rights law. They have the time between now and the next election for it not to be a win or lose issue.
“I do not think it is a political gamble on their part. Their main supporters will stay with them, and I can assure you they will not vote for the PLP over this issue, no matter how much you hear the ‘Christians’ stating otherwise. I am more concerned about Bermudians being treated fairly and equally, not how religious people think they should be treated. Any government of the day should be the same.
“Bermuda is a secular state — not a theocracy like Saudi Arabia, where the Koran rules.”
Same-sex marriage is now legal in the UK, excluding Northern Ireland, and Ms Webb said she believed the British Government, via the Governor’s office, would encourage “the Government of the day to amend their laws accordingly”.
“The British Government will be doing this throughout its territories — not just in Bermuda,” she said.
She congratulated campaigner Tony Brannon for his petition in favour this year, along with community and culture minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin for “getting the ball rolling in the public domain”.
This month’s survey shows opposition to same-sex marriage as overwhelmingly religious. Asked to articulate his views, one member of the community commented on condition of anonymity, citing the aggressive tone of some comments online.
“It starts and ends with the Bible,” he said. “My beliefs start with the spiritual foundation that was embedded in me. The Creator wanted us to multiply and be fruitful. Having that preached throughout your life, there is only one way and side you can be on.” He maintained that marriage was by definition the institution of “a man and woman together in holy matrimony”.
“Anything else in the Creator’s eyes is not a marriage. Now knowing and believing these facts as my strength and spirit, I can never agree to same-sex marriages.”
Meanwhile, Mr Brannon has reactivated his petition, as a rival petition by the group Preserve Marriage in Bermuda broke the 4,000 signature mark yesterday.
“From what I hear, from politicians on either side of the fence, it’s all about the votes,” said Mr Brannon, adding that his rebooted site had reached 3,000 signatures. “The challenge now is to find a same-sex couple that is willing to get married in Bermuda, have them go to the Registrar, get denied, and then we take it to court. There are some who feel it would not fail.
“That would get the politicians off the hook. I don’t care how we get there, as long as we get there.”