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Human rights, civil rights and values

The issues of human rights, civil rights and values for positive living have been challenges for centuries. Throughout the ages, millions have perished in conflicts fought for freedom, respect and civil order.

Whenever the subject of freedom arises, it is usually followed by the word “democracy”, which is a symbol of freedom that allows people to choose a government of their choice, along with a platform for approval or disapproval on issues.

That freedom can become quite fuzzy when one side takes the view that objectors to a particular proposal have no right to do so. That view dismantles the core principles of democracy, where everyone should have free expression based on their beliefs.

There have been staggering changes in lifestyles globally in recent years, and many will argue that family values have plummeted as a result, with devastating impact on cultures around the world. Others insist that the changes have meant that people with a different code for living are gaining support to live according to their beliefs without condemnation.

Confrontation arises because although one has the right to be wrong, that right in no way makes wrong right. That can be a two-way street depending on circumstances. The important factor is that on highly sensitive matters such as same-sex marriage, or same-sex unions, when a society finds itself locked in debate over whether to approve or disapprove legalisation to support changing lifestyles, it opens a floodgate of deeply emotional divisive viewpoints. Both sides have a right to press for support of their beliefs, but with respect for an opposing view, knowing that dignity and integrity should never be compromised in the process of seeking solutions.

It should never be a question of who shouts the loudest, or what is most popular in changing lifestyles. Most people want to keep values alive that have proven essential throughout history, in building strong families that contribute to strong communities.

With the courts giving a green light to conduct a referendum that will give the people an opportunity to speak on the issue through a voting process, it is to be hoped there will be some indication of how the Bermudian people feel about the matter.

It should also be noted that there are those who are not even interested in the subject, right or wrong. Of course, even they have a democratic right to take that position. This brings us back to the issue of human rights, civil rights and values.

Every citizen is entitled to live a happy and productive lifestyle, irrespective of race, religion or ethnicity. Those who are pressing for traditional marriage to be preserved should be fully respected. By the same token, those who support same-sex marriage or same-sex unions must also be respected. The Church should not come under fire for taking a stand to protect traditional marriage, which is between a man and a woman. That view must be respected.

With the amount of problems facing our communities on a daily basis, with periodic shootings, violent crime, along with hostile attitudes that spill over on our roads, our priorities need urgent adjusting in tackling serious issues that affect community life throughout the island.

This is not to say issues of human rights, or civil rights, are to be shoved on to the back burner.

Whatever the result from the referendum on June 23, Bermuda must keep its cool as we collectively ponder what is best for this generation, and those yet unborn. Whatever steps are taken by those in authority will affect human rights and values for future generations.

Throughout history, civilisations have crumbled over a shift in values with the “anything goes” doctrine that allows what is popular to dictate policy for all.

At the moment, Bermuda needs to focus on the economy, crime, rebuilding the job market, boosting our education system and strengthening the family. We certainly don't need a referendum for that.

Divisive issue: about 100 people surrounded the House of Assembly yesterday to pray and demonstrate their opposition to same-sex marriages and civil unions. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published June 13, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated June 13, 2016 at 8:17 am)

Human rights, civil rights and values

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