Gay rights activist: Bermuda moving into ‘a good place’ with next week’s tabling of the Human Rights act amendment in Parliament
A gay rights activist is urging Government not to “drop the ball” by failing to push through amendments to Human Rights laws that will protect people from being discriminated against on the grounds of their sexual orientation.
Valentino Tear spoke out ahead of next Friday’s reconvening of Parliament, when the Human Rights Amendment Act will be tabled.
The Act will make it illegal to discriminate on the grounds of a person’s sexual orientation.
Mr Tear, 40, an events organiser, said he believed that the change in the law meant that Bermuda was finally moving towards “a good place” as far as gay rights were concerned.
But he also expressed concern that the Act will not win the support of a majority of MPs when it is eventually voted on.
In 2006, former Progressive Labour Party MP Renee Webb’s attempt to add sexual orientation to the list of protected grounds on the Human Rights Act failed after just one MP was prepared to stand up and debate the issue.
“I believe that now, with the amendment to the law that the One Bermuda Alliance has put forward, we are getting to a good place because they are doing the right thing,” Mr Tear said.
“But the community needs to put a microscope on our politicians in regard to their ulterior motives when it comes to them voting on the Act.
“I am concerned that there are politicians in the House of Assembly who will vote against it because they want to protect their bubble.
“I think politicians feel that they sometimes have carte blanche in these situations, when it is our lives they are dealing with.
“As a gay activist, I think we need to put more pressure on our politicians. This Act really needs to go through and so I think people now need to be more vocal and share their stories
Religious leaders have already expressed concerns that the amendment will lead to further rights for the homosexual community, such as the right for gay marriages to be legally recognised and making it legal for gay couples to adopt children.
But Mr Tear said that, until those additional rights are legally recognised, gays in Bermuda will still be second-class citizens, even if they are protected from discrimination.
He said he knew of many gay couples who had travelled overseas to get married, while other couples were raising children that had been fathered by one partner previously in a heterosexual relationship.
“Bermuda is ripe for change,” Mr Tear said.
“What we have not got to do now is drop the ball. We’ve got the ball right now, but what we have to do next is we have to run with it and put it in the net.”
Mr Tear said that Bermuda’s reputation had already been tarnished overseas because of its conservative attitude towards homosexuality
Instead, more liberal laws would give the Island the opportunity to tap into an affluent niche market, he argued.
“In the present economic climate, it is ridiculous that we’re not trying to capitalise on that market,” he said.