Shock at plan to attract the pink dollar’
The man fighting the repeal of same-sex marriage has described the intention of politicians to try to increase LGBTQ tourism to Bermuda as “pretty ballsy”.
Rod Ferguson reacted after Jamahl Simmons, the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism, told the House of Assembly on Monday of the importance of attracting the LGBTQ community to the island only three months after MPs voted to stop same-sex marriage by introducing the Domestic Partnership Act.
Leah Scott, Deputy Opposition Leader and shadow tourism minister also voiced her support for targeting the demographic.
Ferguson, 38, who has launched a legal challenge to the new Act, said yesterday: “I think they really need to work on their messaging if they want to say that a segment of the population is not quite fully human, but that we would like to take their valuable dollars.
“It’s very silly to say to the world that we would like to profit from LGBTQ tourists at the same time as we are discriminating against them.”
During the Budget debate on Monday, Mr Simmons promised initiatives to attract LGBTQ visitors would be “rolled out over the next couple of months”.
Ms Scott said that while she did not support same-sex marriage “the LGBTQ community spends money, and they spend big money”.
Mr Ferguson said the island had made a “damning statement to the world” by enacting the legislation.
He added: “I don’t think anyone’s thought of the fact that it might be a boon to tourism. You might get just a rush of bigots who want to support Bermuda.”
He said Ms Scott’s stance on not supporting same-sex marriage, while at the same time wanting to attract LGBTQ visitors, was “the new playbook of the Right”.
Mr Ferguson explained: “Bigotry with compassion is the way that I describe it. It was used in the Preserve Marriage campaign by one of my classmates from school, saying we can love our lesbian and gay brothers and sisters but we don’t have to agree with them.
“But they don’t recognise they are saying it’s a disagreement about the value of a human being.”
Winston Godwin, who won the right to marry his partner Greg DeRoche after a legal battle last year, said the Domestic Partnership Act was a “direct contradiction” to the calls made by Mr Simmons and Ms Scott.
Mr Godwin added: “You are essentially saying we don’t agree with who you love, and we don’t believe you should have the right to marry, but we recognise your worth as a community and we welcome you and want you to spend money here.”
Mr Godwin said that the aspects of the LGBTQ community that Bermuda wanted to accept could not be cherry picked.
He explained: “We are a packaged deal; us, our rights and our money.”
Mr Godwin said that “little to nothing” was done to make the local LGBTQ community feel welcome.
He added: “How can we possibly be targeting other demographics?”
A spokesman for the Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda said the group was “shocked by the contradictory comments” made on Monday.
He said: “If the Government seeks to make Bermuda more hospitable for the LGBTQ community, it should start with its own citizens.”
“With the recent passage of the Domestic Partnership Act, the Government of Bermuda has made it patently clear that it has little interest in the wellbeing of LGBTQ individuals.”
He described the exchange in the House of Assembly as “disingenuous at best and hypocritical posturing at worst”.
The spokesman added: “The Domestic Partnership Act has created a stigma that Bermuda will likely never be able to completely rid itself of.
“In an industry in which word of mouth both makes and breaks success, the Bermuda Government has failed not only Bermuda’s LGBTQ community first and foremost, but the Bermuda hospitality industry as a whole.”
Kevin Dallas, chief executive at the Bermuda Tourism Authority, said that the organisation’s efforts were not about specifically targeting LGBTQ tourism for Bermuda.
Mr Dallas explained: “Our research indicates many companies, consumers and travellers, including the overwhelming majority of the younger visitors powering Bermuda’s growth, care about LGBTQ equality.
“Our response to the Domestic Partnership Act is therefore designed to reassure a much wider target audience that Bermuda’s tourism industry is inclusive and committed to treating every visitor with respect.”
Mr Dallas said that Mr Simmons had been briefed in New York about “the actions the BTA can take to make sure that all visitors, including LGBTQ visitors, feel safe and welcome in Bermuda”.
He said that the BTA’s decision to, last year, join the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association was part of the quango’s outreach.
The Domestic Partnership Act was passed by Parliament in December and given Royal Assent by John Rankin, the Governor, last month. It was created to stop same-sex marriages and replace them with partnership arrangements open to both gay and straight couples.
The law is due to come into effect on June 1.
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