Gay couple planning to leave Bermuda
An about-turn on same-sex marriage is “the last straw” for Bermudian Joe Gibbons and his Canadian partner, Christopher Vee.
The couple are in the process of buying a business in Canada, where they aim to settle later this year.
Mr Gibbons said: “We’ve been in a relationship for 15 years and married in Canada for three. We want to get on with our lives.”
He does not think “too many people will leave” as a result of the legislation to end same-sex marriage, but predicted that “more and more people won’t go back to Bermuda” as a result of the change.
Mr Gibbons added: “I turn 65 this year. I’ve done my bit for Bermuda, but Bermuda does not have the decency to do its bit back, not just me but for hundreds of people. I never thought I would have said that.”
The couple’s story was carried by Reuters news agency yesterday in a report by Bermudian journalist Emma Farge.
The report came as it was revealed that the Geoscience&Society Summit planned for Bermuda in September is to go elsewhere as a result of the domestic partnership legislation.
Organisers pulled out of Bermuda over the Act, which will end same-sex marriages made possible by a Supreme Court ruling in May last year.
Mr Gibbons said the online backlash against the island’s move, including the hashtag #BoycottBermuda, was “unfortunate”.
He added: “I don’t encourage it, but it’s out there on social media.”
Mr Gibbons said he remembered the 1994 controversy over the Stubbs Bill, which decriminalised buggery.
Churches overseas threatened to boycott the island if the legislation passed.
The Stubbs Bill drew fierce opposition from Bermuda’s religious community, which banded together as the Christian Coalition.
The Bill was approved by the legislature in May of that year.
Mr Gibbons said that attitudes towards gay people had not changed much since then.
He added: “It’s the same underlying prejudice. It’s so much more deeply rooted than just anti-gay.”
Mr Gibbons said that Bermuda may end up “learning the hard way” because of the social-media revolution since the 1990s.
He added: “We don’t make money. Money comes to us. That’s how it’s been from Day 1. If you put up barriers and tell people they are not welcome, then you have to accept changes in your own lifestyle.”
Mr Gibbons said Bermuda was still “a great place” and that Canada had “people who don’t approve of same-sex couples, but that’s neither here nor there”.
The couple were part of the 2015 legal action brought by a group called Bermuda Bred, which won same-sex partners the rights to live and work on the same basis as spouses of Bermudians.
Mr Gibbons said: “After ten years of getting work permits for Chris, we decided that either this is going to change, or we are leaving”.
He added: “I had spoken to fairly senior people in the One Bermuda Alliance government who absolutely didn’t care. It was not a vote getter. We won in the Supreme Court, but it didn’t give him further rights.”
Mr Gibbons said that after the Domestic Partnership Act, the couple had decided “to live where we can be treated as equals and do business as equals, without people looking at us askance”.
The Act was passed by the legislature in December, and granted Royal Assent by John Rankin, the Governor, this month.
The Ministry of Home Affairs said the Act will come into operation “on such day as the minister may appoint by notice published in the Gazette”.
Hill recalls pastor funeral intervention
A pastor’s intervention at the funeral of a gay man was remembered by island designer René Hill in international coverage of Bermuda’s reversal of same-sex marriage.
The Reuters article, which highlighted objections by human rights campaigners over “the influence of church over state in Bermuda”, recalled Ms Hill’s eulogy for a gay cousin in 2012.
Reuters reported that Ms Hill’s eulogy was interrupted by a pastor who appealed for the congregation to “pray for the dead man’s sins” when Ms Hill mentioned his sexuality.
The call came from churchwoman Veronica Outerbridge at the service in Warwick’s Amis Memorial Chapel.
Ms Hill told The Royal Gazette: “More than anything, I was trying to say that he was just human — and a good human.”
She said she opposed the Domestic Partnership Act, which replaced gay marriage with domestic partnership open to both straight and gay couples.
Ms Hill added: “To reverse a right that gay people have been given is going backward for Bermuda and just unnecessary.”
She said: “I have done the wedding attire for several gay couples and for guests attending their weddings.
“In my opinion, love is love.”
• UPDATE: this article has been amended to clarify that the Stubbs Bill in 1994 decriminalised buggery, not gay sex
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