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What side of history do you want to be on?

Liana Hall

“In itself, homosexuality is as limiting as heterosexuality: the ideal should be to be capable of loving a woman or a man; either, a human being, without feeling fear, restraint, or obligation.”

— Simone de Beauvoir

In my first column writing as the Restless Native, I wrote about the difficulties in being able to blindly choose the subject matter of each article.

It is a beautiful thing to have such freedom, but with only myself to direct me it can be daunting. So much has happened since my last article, both to me personally and on the Island, that I was overwhelmed and not sure where to begin. My perfectionism has caused a delay of five months as I have found myself questioning, “what do I write for? What do I fight for? What do I stand for?”

I split my time between Bermuda and London, so I experience the issues and read with fervour everything about each place as it relates to my experiences.

A few weeks ago, as the voters for the Corporations of Hamilton and St George were practising their civic right, I did the same in the UK General Election.

I was disappointed by the Conservative Party win and this feeling was certainly not diminished when the re-elected prime minister, David Cameron, appointed as minister for equalities an MP who voted against same-sex marriage.

I am now back in Bermuda, my trip delayed after having missed my flight from New York. I found myself in the city for another day, so last Sunday I escorted a friend to her Baptist church in Harlem. I am not religious. Apart from funerals, weddings and christenings I probably have not been to church in ten years.

However, two separate friends had sung the praises of this church and its pastor and I was curious. Even so, the prospect of walking in as an outsider to a place that can have a reputation of exclusivity served to compound my frustrations of that day.

Despite my apprehension, I was enamoured with the First Corinthian Baptist Church of Harlem. I discovered that we don’t always know what we need until we receive it. The service was a rollicking gospel, soulful extravaganza. It was beautiful from the beginning because we were welcomed with this statement: “Whether you’re black or white, gay or straight, from Brooklyn or Australia, you are all welcome here.”

If we could all be welcomed in a house of God I wonder why we can’t all be welcome in Bermuda? On May 17, 2013 (the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia), the House of Assembly outlawed discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. This was despite lobbying against such measures towards equality by the “United for Change” group, composed of more than 70 clergymen, churches and faith-based organisations.

That makes me wonder: can changing laws lead to changing mindsets? A survey by Profiles of Bermuda found that voter opposition to same-sex marriage stands at 60 per cent two years after the change in law. Of interest is the fact that 70 per cent of white or other voters are in favour of marriage equality, and 72 per cent of black voters are against it.

So the question then becomes, what is equality? After all, separate is not equal. This is the lesson of decades past. Yet the segment of society most opposed to marriage equality is that which has been routinely discriminated against and still suffers from a continuing legacy of white privilege. It was only in the last century that inter-racial marriages were legitimised at all.

This morning I caught a brief segment of a local advertisement for marriage. It claimed such unions support families and elevates society as a whole. How can we instruct people to advocate for this while denying their fellows the right to marry? Less than two months ago, a same-sex couple was denied the right to marry on a P&O cruise ship due to its registration in Bermuda.

Some readers will remember that the Rosie O’Donnell cruise of a few years ago for same-sex couples and their families was forced to change destinations due to planned anti-gay protests.

Surely Bermuda cannot afford to alienate potential tourists, workers and international businesses that come from more accepting societies.

Last week, a petition of nearly 2,500 signatures was presented to the Cabinet Office supporting marriage equality in Bermuda.

Twenty-one countries have legalised same-sex marriage, including in the past week Ireland via referendum and the unanimous vote by Greenland MPs.

Ireland’s approval encouraged the Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi, to pledge to expedite civil unions as a step towards full marriage equality. Next month, Australia’s Labour Party will be introducing to the House of Representatives a bill to remove restrictions on marriage.

If Xavier Bettel, prime minister of the staunchly Catholic Luxembourg can marry his male partner and the legislators of Rome, the birthplace of that church, are attempting such change, then time is running out for Bermuda to be on the right side of history. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr: “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

There are no exceptions to equality. This is what I stand for. This is what I fight for. This is what I write for. What side of history do you want to be on?