Preserve Marriage ad ‘highly inappropriate’
Former Attorney-General Mark Pettingill said yesterday that a newspaper advertisement taken out by a group opposing same-sex marriage was “totally inappropriate” in light of ongoing legal proceedings.
Preserve Marriage paid to place the half-page advert, quoting remarks made in Parliament by Mr Pettingill in 2014, on page 5 of yesterday's edition of The Royal Gazette.
The advert pointed out that during a debate on landmark legislation prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination, Mr Pettingill told MPs that there was no need to include any “carve-out” to secure marriage in Bermuda between a man and a woman.
Mr Pettingill, who was Attorney-General at the time, said then: “In my view, it is not a valid fear or concern that someone can take the very significant thing that we are doing here today and sensibly, in law, run off and try and apply at the Registry to have a same-sex marriage, because the first thing that is going to happen is that those provisions are going to be looked at and the answer on the face of it would have to be no.
“It would have to be no because the law is in place. In a sense, really, it is redundant to put it in there. It is not appropriate to put it in.”
The advert said Mr Pettingill was now “suing the Registrar-General to introduce same-sex marriage in Bermuda through the courts this December, 2016, and his application is supported by the Human Rights Commission”.
The case, involving Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé, Greg DeRoche, who are represented by Mr Pettingill, is due to be heard by the Supreme Court on December 8.
Mr Pettingill said yesterday: “I find it highly inappropriate that in the midst of a court case, they try and go after one of the lawyers, who clearly has always been an advocate for non-discrimination.”
Mr Pettingill said of his comments in the House on June 14, 2014: “I think it was a case of being somewhat placating. The fact of the matter is that I have had to deal with people who have been homophobic on both sides [of the House].
“A large number of people in my own party voted for the discriminatory amendment which was sent back by the Senate [in July this year].”
He said the quotes in the advert were his but they were made in the context of being adamant, as AG, that there should be no carve-out added to the sexual orientation amendment to the Human Rights Act.
“There were people that wanted to have a discriminatory clause put in there. I wasn't prepared to do that.
“What I said in relation to same-sex marriage was that this was a different debate for a different time, which is exactly what I am involved in now.”
He said Preserve Marriage's advert showed what a “well-funded campaign of discrimination this really is” and comments he made in 2014 were hardly relevant now.
“People grow and change with wisdom, with the benefit of learning and love,” said the One Bermuda Alliance backbencher. “It doesn't matter what Mark Pettingill said three years ago. I stand very firmly today in a place of non-discrimination.”
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