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Dunkley finds himself in a union not so civil

Michael Dunkley, the Premier

If Michael Dunkley did not feel particularly isolated in the House of Assembly by his own refusal to vote on the Human Rights Amendment Act 2016 on Friday, the fallout from the vote has left him on a veritable Gilligan’s Island.

Not only has the Premier been thrown under the bus with the eight One Bermuda Alliance parliamentarians who allowed the amendment to pass, thus mandating that marriage stays as solely between a man and a woman, but his trusted and adhesive former aide, Senator Jeff Baron, has vowed to “defeat this hateful law” when the Senate resumes with a special sitting on Thursday.

Notwithstanding that government backbencher Mark Pettingill appears to have made it his life’s ambition to see same-sex marriage legalised in Bermuda, pronouncements on no fewer than two occasions since 2013 that the Government and the party believe marriage to be between a man and a woman are as convincing as Marcus Junius Brutus claiming to love Julius Caesar as he plunged a dagger into his back.

Pettingill, like a dog with a bone, will not go quietly into the night on this issue. Nor, on the other side of the political fence, will Walton Brown, who is so fired up in his disappointment with the vote that he has reignited the call for Bermuda to gain independence from Britain.

But first with Pettingill, who admitted that he was embarrassed to be associated with anyone in the OBA that could not see the vote on Friday the way he did — that’s eight people plus the leader of the country whose noses will be bent out of shape by having their sense of morality challenged.

The Warwick North East MP, whose constituency contributed to one of several one-sided regional votes against same-sex marriage in the referendum last month, is perhaps a misplaced word away from taking his toys and relocating them in the same independent toy box that hosts legal colleague Shawn Crockwell.

With such a slender majority to run the Government in the first place, these are worrying days for Dunkley and those closest to him — he can ill afford another dissident jumping ship.

Stalling for more time on the vote on Friday, in the hope of getting a steer from the Human Rights Commission this week, has not gone down well. Wayne Furbert was never going to agree to have his amendment delayed when he knew he had the votes to pass it immediately — the “dog with a bone” analogy again — so the Premier has been caught with his pants down.

Either way, especially after stating at referendum time that he believed marriage to be between a man and a woman, Dunkley was going to take some flak.

Now he must try to rescue the situation before the Supreme Court is brought in to play judge, jury and executioner. That could start as soon as Thursday in the Upper House.

Dunkley is in favour of civil unions and what seems most apparent is that he has not been able to get all of his party onside, especially the likes of Pettingill and Crockwell.

In the least, most who are in favour of same-sex marriage should see that civil unions is a workable compromise.

It has been established by the European Court of Human Rights as recently as last month that the right to marry is not a human right for anyone, but couples in long-term relationships — whether they be heterosexual or same-sex — should be afforded the same rights as would be gleaned from traditional marriage.

That is what was most disappointing from the referendum results. The near 2:1 ratio on the first question was wholly unsurprising, given the Bermudian culture and the historical primacy of religion on the island — anyone surprised must be living in a restrictive bubble of like minds, giving more credence to the term “two Bermudas”, and oblivious to the mentality of the majority.

What is unfortunate and disappointing is that the majority appears to have taken both questions to mean the same thing, thinking one leads to another. Opponents of same-sex marriage made certain to promote that fear in their campaign, and, regrettably, it worked.

Without the possibility of civil unions, even, this means that a segment of our community will be treated differently. That cannot be right.

Gays bleed as we all bleed, they cry as we all cry. They are born Bermudian and are partners of Bermudians. Our people. Our flesh and blood. And they will continue to live together. We let them down as badly as though we had ignored the cries of a helpless infant.

The politicians inside the House of Assembly were given the chance to show their humanity and they have failed.

Dunkley’s perhaps self-imposed brief was to rally his OBA troops with a view to getting civil unions’ foot in the door, but he failed. With them, plus Michael Scott and Walton Brown from the PLP, he could see off Furbert and give Bermuda’s gays at least some of the equality they seek.

But, alas, it was not to be.

So Chief Justice Ian Kawaley, who does not want to be typecast as the big bad wolf, may have no option but to accept his role and then huff, puff and blow this House down.