Furbert to meet married gay man
A young Bermudian man who won the right for gay people to marry on the island is to meet the government MP behind a bid to have the decision reversed.
Winston Godwin-DeRoche, whose successful challenge to the law in the Supreme Court led to a landmark ruling in May, posted an open letter to the Progressive Labour Party backbencher Wayne Furbert on Facebook on Wednesday.
Mr Godwin-DeRoche asked Mr Furbert how he could “actively work to deny the LGBT community the same rights you were denied and fought for based on your skin colour in the 1960s”.
The letter has resulted in a meeting between the two men next Tuesday. Other members of the LGBT community are expected to attend.
Meanwhile, British media have picked up on the possibility that Bermuda could become the first country in the world to “re-ban same-sex marriage” if Mr Furbert’s Private Member’s Bill to restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples is successful.
Gay Times wrote: “If same-sex marriage is re-banned in the country, it would be a massive problem for cruise liners in the area, who have already taken bookings for weddings.”
Bermuda Tourism Authority spokesman Glenn Jones said: “The Bermuda Tourism Authority markets Bermuda as hospitable, warm and a place welcoming to all people. We hope Bermuda’s policies live up to that promise.”
Mr Godwin-DeRoche, 27, whose letter is printed in full in the Op-Ed section on page 5 today, told The Royal Gazette he reached out to Mr Furbert in the hope of getting “just a response on a human level”.
He said: “At the end of the day, we are both black Bermudians. Obviously, he’s experienced a lot more of the racial aspect of things, growing up in the time period he did.”
But he added: “It’s comparing apples to apples when you compare race to the same-sex marriage issue. It’s completely the same issue.”
Mr Godwin-DeRoche brought his civil case with his Canadian fiancé, Greg, with whom he has since tied the knot in Canada.
The lawsuit led to a ruling by Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons that legalised same-sex marriage. The decision is now being appealed by the charity Preserve Marriage and its supporters, including Mr Furbert.
In his letter to Mr Furbert, Mr Godwin-DeRoche wrote that he and the politician were probably similar people with opposing views on life and that such differences were fine but said “problems arise when we are told our differences, the very things that make us who we are, make us second-class citizens. Problems arise when we are told you cannot have the same rights because you are gay”.
He added: “I would like you to pause and replace the word ‘gay’ with ‘black’ or, quite frankly, with any race, nationality or ‘difference’ that you are born with and have no control over.”
Mr Godwin-DeRoche wrote: “At one time, blacks had to also fight for their rights to be heard and recognised. The race issues faced in the 1960s [and earlier] are the gay rights issues we are facing at present.
“I am certain you, as well as the larger Bermudian community, are aware of what it has taken for race relations to get to the point of where they are now, including the riots of 1977, which we were so recently reminded of.
“Experiencing what you have, how can you actively work to deny the LGBT community the same rights you were denied and fought for based on your skin colour in the 1960s?”
He said he and his fiancé took the decision to take legal action after they were denied the right to marry here. Mr Godwin-DeRoche added that their decision was based on the same principles the black community believed in before desegregation.
He said: “We all deserve equal rights and protection under the law, including marriage.
“Introducing this Private Member’s Bill will not only effectively exclude same-sex couples from the right to marriage, which you so enjoy, it will also send a message to the world about what sort of country Bermuda can be.
“Should this Bill be passed, Bermuda would be the only country to grant same-sex marriage and have it revoked.”
He finished by asking Mr Furbert to meet him for coffee and “answer why does same-sex marriage truly offend you”.
He wrote: “I consciously chose to leave religion and the Bible out of this letter. Please do me the same courtesy because, when it comes to human rights, religion has no bearing.”
Mr Furbert responded online: “Hi Winston, I am not going to reply via this media but would be more than happy to sit down with you for coffee. Let’s do it asap.”
Greg Godwin-DeRoche then chipped in and told Mr Furbert: “I don’t think I will be available to be in Bermuda but if I am, I will be there with my husband. I would love to learn more about your stance on discrimination.
“I don’t feel there is a logical response to discriminating one group of people, yet upholding laws and values for all or any other group. Discrimination is just that, regardless if it is race, gender, religion or sexuality.”
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