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Address same-sex marriage, politicians told

Tony Brannon

Equal rights campaigners and members of the LGBT community have called on Bermuda’s politicians to stand up and take a stance on same-sex marriage.

They were speaking ahead of a series of information sessions organised by Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the Minister for Community, to discuss the subject in response to a petition that was handed to her by Tony Brannon in favour of same-sex marriage. Mr Brannon said that more members of the LGBT community need to publicly come out and stand up for what they believe in while politicians have remained shamefully silent on the matter.

He said he was happy the sessions will go ahead but believed much more needs to be done: “The fact that they have actually acknowledged this and are going to have a discussion about this is good. But I think there are people who will be cynical about it.

“The bottom line is — I don’t think I know of any politician who will come out and say anything, one way or another. I’ve not seen any one of them put their neck on the line for it — it is staggering.

“There is this perceived thing about the church vote that showing support for same-sex [marriage] will mess up the possibility of winning the next election but this is a human rights issue.

“Secondly, we are absolutely missing out on tens and tens of millions of tourism dollars. I would love representatives from the Bermuda Tourism Authority and the hotel industry to hear what same-sex marriage could do for our tourism industry.” Joe Gibbons is a gay Bermudian who had to travel to Canada to marry his partner. He praised Ms Gordon-Pamplin for arranging the sessions but said that Bermuda’s politicians had to do more.

He said: “I have to give Minister Pamplin a pat on the back. I was at the Cabinet Office back in early spring when Tony presented his petition as a first step towards equality on this issue. Now she has responded.

“In Bermuda, the more we come to terms with our differences, and learn to accept each other at face value [the better]. These information sessions should encourage people to better understand the issue, and how it is affecting lives.

“More Bermudians are getting into same-sex unions and I think many would like to call Bermuda their home. We have already lost so many, why must we lose more?”

Mr Gibbons added: “I have felt that our politicians have not done enough.

“There are many who support equality — indeed, who wouldn’t? — but will not speak out. As I have said before, one of our main political problems is leadership. Parties tend to do what they think will get them re-elected, not what is right or even proper.

“Our current politicians were elected to do more than host AC35 cocktail parties. I do think AC35 is great for Bermuda, and it goes to show that we can get things done pretty quickly when we want to.

“But why continue a policy which just excludes more Bermudians from these successes?”

Shari-Lee Pringle, a member of Two Words and a Comma which led a successful campaign to add sexual orientation to the Human Rights Act in 2013, said: “I think it is a good first step to provide information and dispel myths and untruths about same-sex marriage as disseminated by homophobics, the church and other people who make it their lot in life to complain and spread misinformation no matter how many times they are informed otherwise.

“Persons are living and loving in Bermuda as committed couples and families and simply need their unions recognised as legal so that their quality of life is equal to that of the heterosexual couple.”

The issue of same-sex marriage hit the headlines in Bermuda in 2006 when former MP Renee Webb’s bill to amend the Human Rights Act was rejected with only one other member speaking out about it.

Ms Webb said at the time that the leadership of the country’s two political parties was the “weakest I have ever seen”.

Since then, the Human Rights Act was amended to include sexual orientation to the act for protection against discrimination but same-sex marriage remains outlawed.

• The information sessions will be held on Monday, September 28 at the Berkeley Institute and Thursday, October 1 at Bermuda College North Hall at 6pm.

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