Govt probes same-sex couple’s complaint
The Department of Immigration is investigating a complaint that a staff member refused to accept a spousal certificate application from a same-sex couple.
In a recent Facebook posting, Jameka Smith said she and her spouse, Charlene, were repeatedly challenged by a hostile Immigration Department staffer who refused to allow them to submit the application until they attended with a lawyer.
“She was a very hostile clerk who I would really like to name and shame as she had a personal vendetta for us and boldly would tell us each time we attempted to submit the application that our marriage was not recognised in Bermuda and that our application will surely be denied,” she wrote.
Mrs Smith also claimed the couple were repeatedly turned away by landlords while looking for a place to rent because of their orientation.
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Home Affairs said they are “very much aware” of the matter and the Department of Immigration is currently investigating the complaint, but could not comment further at this time.
Venous Memari, managing director of the Centre for Justice said it was difficult to comprehend why a technical officer would refuse to accept an application for a spousal certificate.
“Any application must be accepted and processed,” she said. “Even though the application has now been accepted, it might be worth speaking with the Ombudsman to see if the refusal to accept the application constituted maladministration.”
Regarding the matter of the couple being refused housing by landlords, she said the incident was unfortunate but the couple may have a remedy through the Human Rights Commission.
“As securing accommodation is concerned so they should contact the Human Rights Commission to see if they have a claim under the Human Rights Act,” she said. “Whilst we are sympathetic with the concerns of the writer and her spouse, it is important to know that no protected category has blanket protection under the Act when it comes to renting accommodation.
“The Act prohibits discrimination against a person in need of any accommodation based on his/her sexual orientation, however it is not unlawful to discriminate against a person based on his/her age or any other protected category including sexual orientation, race etc if the housing accommodation is in a building which contains three units and if the owner/or member of his family occupy one of the units.
“This of course raises the question, whether it's even appropriate for an Act that aims to protect the daily requirements of everyone, especially the vulnerable members of society, to have such carve outs.”