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Case a ‘win situation’ despite verdict

Mark Anderson (Photo by Mark Tatem)

Bus driver and female impersonator Mark Anderson has called for amendments in the Human Rights Act after his case of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was dismissed by a tribunal.

Mr Anderson claimed that he was discriminated against by Desai Jones, who wrote derogatory comments online about him based on his sexual orientation.

However, the Human Rights Commission said it was unable to make a “just verdict” because, while the law prohibits written discrimination on racial grounds, it does not prohibit written discrimination on other grounds.

The commission has said it will submit recommendations to the Bermuda Government before the end of the year so that written discrimination can be prohibited on all grounds.

Mr Anderson told The Royal Gazette yesterday: “It is still a win situation — just like anything else if you don’t bring it to life then everything will stay dormant.

“Bermuda’s Human Rights Act has a lot of holes. The Government needs to update all of the act in this category [sexual orientation] when it makes its amendments.

“I would also like to see them go a step further with the powers that be legislating against hate crimes.

“I have done my job — I expected this to happen. But it is still a win for me — it is not the verdict I would have liked but it is still a win.”

Tawana Tannock, a Human Rights commissioner who was the tribunal chairwoman on the case, told this newspaper: “We will push a proposed draft amendment to section 8a of the act.

“It will certainly be something we push prior to the end of our term at the end of the year.

“Our amendments will speak about including all prohibitive grounds for discrimination.”

Discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation was recently introduced to section 2 of the act following a long campaign by equal rights organisation Two Words and a Comma but when the new prohibitive ground of sexual orientation was introduced it was not repeated throughout the act.

Ms Tannock said the proposed amendments could materialise much more quickly than the initial inclusion of sexual orientation into the act.

“This is not asking them to add grounds that are not already in the act so perhaps it will be faster.

“We are asking that all the grounds in this act be incorporated in this section. It is closing a circle.

“Our role as a tribunal is not only to hear human rights cases but it is also to make recommendations in areas that we see the act can be improved.

“The beauty of the tribunal and process is that you can see what works, what needs to be fixed.

“The act is a living document — a work in motion.”

Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the Minister of Community, Culture and Sports, told The Royal Gazette: “The ministry is appreciative of the work of the Human Rights Commission, and when they make recommendations, we look at them in conjunction with the AG’s Chambers so that a determination can be made on whether the act needs to be amended.

“The Ministry will certainly take a look at the recommendation of the Human Rights Commission.

“We would need to consult with the Attorney-General’s Chambers so that a determination can be made as to whether the Human Rights Act should be amended in some way.”