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Minister: civil unions not linked to profits

Addressing concerns: Michael Fahy, the Minister of Home Affairs, and Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the Minister of Community, Culture and Sport, field questions on civil unions. (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)

Economic benefits played no role on introducing civil unions for same-sex partners, according to Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the Minister for Community, Cultural Affairs and Sports.

At last night’s second town hall meeting on the topic, the minister acknowledged that many had argued that the island would reap profits from overseas by embracing marriage equality.

However, she told those gathered at the Berkeley Institute auditorium: “We cannot make a decision that might turn Bermuda on its head and base that decision on dollars and cents.”

The Government will bring legislation on civil unions before Parliament later this month in an effort to “meet our international obligations while moving forward in a moderately reasonable fashion that the population can accept”, Attorney-General Trevor Moniz said.

While many who spoke at the meeting voiced unhappiness with the terms of the civil unions legislation, which applies only to same-sex couples and sets an age of 18 instead of 16, Mr Moniz said that compromise had been unavoidable and ultimately pragmatic.

“You can have all the idealism you want, but if you can’t get your agenda through the House of Assembly, it avails you nothing,” the Attorney-General said, recalling the “long and tempestuous” debate in 1994 over the Stubbs Bill that struck down Bermuda’s anti-sodomy laws.

“At the end of the day, I put forward an amendment setting the age at 18,” Mr Moniz said. “It would not have passed without my amendment.”

He acknowledged that some would see civil unions as falling short while others would feel the Government was going too fast, but added: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

Michael Fahy, the Minister of Home Affairs, told the crowd of about 100 people that no one has yet come up with an alternative that could effectively take into account the views of the many.

The audience heard that with other legal challenges coming on the matter of same-sex marriage, the Government had been tasked with coming up with legislation that would address the matter comprehensively.

While many feared that civil unions would inevitably lead to same-sex marriage becoming legal, the Attorney-General said it was a matter for future governments and the people of the time.

“Ten years in the future, who knows where Bermuda will be?” Mr Moniz said.

“All we can say is we know that Bermuda is not there now.”