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World is watching our stance on same-sex marriage

The issue of same-sex marriage must be addressed with due consideration for every human being, but we are not the only country who has faced this issue.

There are several countries around the world that recognise same-sex marriage: Argentina, Canada, Denmark, England, France, Portugal, Mexico, South Africa and the United States are just a few.

In 1989, Denmark was the first country in the world to make same-sex marriage legal. In the US, Massachusetts became the first state in 2004 and in Britain legislation was passed in 2013.

People in love, regardless of their gender, should have the same legal rights and protection as someone in a traditional marriage.

We all know someone who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. They are our family, friends, co-workers and partners. How can we treat someone like a second-class citizen just because of who they love?

The Human Rights Commission is failing in its mission, which states: “To eliminate discrimination through advocacy, education and enforcement.”

Since the enactment of the Human Rights Act 1981, the commission, as quoted on its website, “has served to provide a code of non-discrimination between people in Bermuda and to extend the fundamental rights and freedoms which are enshrined in the Constitution”.

The issue of same-sex marriage is a human rights issue and it is something mandated for the Human Rights Commission to act upon. If the system of legislature fails in its responsibility, the only alternative would be for the judicial system to uphold the laws and the provisions of our Constitution.

The politicians of our country, both the Government and the Opposition, have a duty to uphold the provisions of the Constitution, which include the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual, and should not use the cover of religion or peer pressure to bypass their responsibility of ensuring that all people are treated on an equal basis. The religious community is not bound to perform ceremonial marriages unless it chooses to do so. The Government cannot force a religious organisation to conduct or to participate in same-sex marriage if it goes against their religious doctrine or beliefs.

This is also covered by Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

However, if a religious person or organisation chooses to participate in same-sex marriage, there can be certain guidelines put in place to ensure the integrity of the entire organisation, such as those in the Britain which are:

• The governing body of the religious organisation has opted in by giving explicit consent to marriages of same-sex couples

• The individual minister is willing to conduct the marriage

• If the ceremony takes place in a place of worship, those premises have been registered for marriages of same-sex couples

Denying someone the opportunity to exercise their civil rights is discriminatory, is against human rights and — if it is in our Constitution and the provisions of the Human Rights Act — therefore, it is morally wrong and unjust.

We, as a country, need to legalise same-sex marriage. By opening up marriage to all people in our country, it removes pillars of discrimination and serves to make Bermuda a more just and inclusive society, which will not only strengthen our relationship with each other but the rest of the world as well.

Because of technology and especially social media, Bermuda’s affairs are open to the world.

The world is watching and influential international people who have taken principled and moral positions on this area of human rights encourage others not to offer their services or support to Bermuda, whom they see as not embracing human rights and as discriminating against a certain group of people.

My appeal is to all politicians, organisational leaders and the public at large with one voice to support human rights of same-sex marriage and to hold the Government accountable to put forward the appropriate legislation that will deem same-sex marriage legal.