Preserve Marriage supports new gay couple rights
Preserve Marriage has called for a “bundle of benefits” to bestow new legal rights on same-sex couples, while denying them marriage or civil unions.
However Adrian Hartnett-Beasley, who married his male partner Shane last year in New York, described the offer as “just not good enough for me and my husband”.
In a new print advertisement, which is featured in today's Royal Gazette, the Preserve Marriage charity reiterates its stance as to why Bermuda should keep marriage between heterosexual couples only.
Titled “8 Simple Facts You Need to Know”, the advert promises to “keep the public informed about the truth” on same-sex marriage “to avoid being misled”.
In its eighth and final point, the advert says: “So how do we move forward? Article 8 for Bermuda can be applied through listing a bundle of benefits available to all persons, which does not require a redefinition of marriage or same-sex civil unions.”
The aforementioned Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights deals with the individual's right to respect for private and family life.
At present, same-sex couples in Bermuda face assorted legal prohibitions. These include making decisions on a partner's behalf when he or she is sick, visiting a partner's child in hospital and leaving property to a non-Bermudian same-sex spouse.
Preserve Marriage does not specify what exact legislation changes would be included in the “bundle of benefits”, and the charity did not return calls for clarification.
Mr Hartnett-Beasley criticised the suggestion of the bundle as an ineffective and expensive “slap in the face”, as well as an attempt for Bermuda to do “the bare minimum” to resolve the issue.
“Look to the history of ‘equal but separate'. It's not equality and it perpetuates prejudice,” he said.
“Creating a ‘bundle of benefits' is creating a double barrier to marriage equality — now and in the future, when it will need to be undone.”
Mr Hartnett-Beasley also argued that the set-up would prove unworkable when same-sex couples in Bermuda decided to travel abroad.
“Whether or not the bundle can provide every single legal benefit — which I'm sceptical of — it likely can't provide international reciprocity, under law or even on a personal level,” he said.
“Will gay couples from the island tell their friends when they travel, ‘We can't get married in Bermuda, but we can get bundled'?”
Calling the proposed idea “simply not enough”, Mr Hartnett-Beasley added: “We want to be treated equally.
“It feels like a slap in the face to say that I am not capable of falling in love and choosing who to marry.
“We are mature enough and we are capable of making an informed and consensual decision. We don't want to be bundled, we don't want to be civil unioned - we want to be married.”
Same-sex marriage supporter Tony Brannon echoed this call — pointing to the advances the United States is making in supporting its LGBT citizens, with Vice-President Joe Biden officiating the wedding of two male White House staff members on Monday.
“Preserve Marriage are on the wrong side of history. What members of the LGBT community fully deserve is equality,” Mr Brannon said.
Progressive Labour Party MP Wayne Furbert, whose Bill to solidify marriage as being solely between a man and a woman was rejected by Senate last month, supported Preserve Marriage's benefits bundle.
“I know there are those who would want to go further, but at least we can do this part. I believe that we can come up with a bundle of rights that we can all agree on,” he said.
Tawana Tannock, chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission, reaffirmed the organisation's stance on the matter.
“We want to ensure that any action taken is a step towards equality, and a step towards the Government recognising their legal obligation to same-sex couples,” she said.
In the coming weeks, a Bermudian and his fiancé will go to the Supreme Court attempting to become the first gay couple to wed on the island.
Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche, who live in Toronto, had their application to marry rejected by the Registrar-General last month. Their lawyer, Mark Pettingill, has applied for a judicial review of the decision.
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