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Banning same-sex marriage an ‘embarrassment’

A prominent gay rights activist predicted yesterday that Bermuda would face a backlash after the Government revealed plans to end same-sex marriage and adopt a watered-down “domestic partnerships” initiative.

Celebrations planned for Friday, marking six months after local courts allowed the first same-sex couple to wed, are overshadowed by the move — as same-sex couples seek to marry on Bermudian-registered ships.

“We have people already married and now we will have some that can't — how ridiculous is that?” Mark Anderson said. “What are we now going to tell these people that have already spent money to have their wedding on these ships? This is going to help Bermuda?”

He added: “It would be a powerful setback and an embarrassment to our country.”

P&O Cruises, Cunard and Carnival's Princess Cruises embraced the May Supreme Court ruling, allowing them to offer the ceremony next January.

Domestic partnerships, which will go before the public for consultation at a town hall meeting tonight, will not affect the previous marriages that Mr Anderson and other performers plan to mark with a celebratory female impersonators bash at City Hall.

But the move would take back a milestone that the popular bus driver, who performs as his female alter ego Sybil Barrington, called a done deal.

Mr Anderson said: “We have to let it be marriage. There is always going to be some loophole or technicality if we make it a civil union.”

He added: “We might open ourselves for lawsuits in the event that we retract this. Especially with people who have already applied to marry.

“Keep in mind that the gay community has disposable cash. I hope that the Bermuda Government does not have to pay that price.

“I'd like to see MPs go into Parliament, debate this and do it the right way, or just leave it alone — the law is already done.”

Mr Anderson said he had “no issue” with Walton Brown, the Minister of Home Affairs, who stewards the draft Domestic Partnership Bill. “Mr Brown has a job to do for the Government, and I know that he supports the gay community.”

He said Wayne Furbert, the MP who has vowed to bring legislation outlawing same-sex marriage, “disappointed” him, along with Melvyn Bassett, the chairman of opponents Preserve Marriage.

“It's done,” he said. “Let's unite as Bermudians.”

However, Mr Anderson said he had made his peace with homophobia, and could “stand in front of a million people calling me all the names they want”.

On the stage at the Earl Cameron Theatre, Mr Anderson will be joined by a host of other Bermudian artists, including some comparative newcomers.

For stand-up comic and singer Roderick Ferguson, a Bermudian in New York, Friday marks a welcome return home to perform as Rhonda Bout.

“That name is a nod to my Bermuda heritage,” Mr Ferguson said — “roundabouts” being an uncommon term in America. The character won prizes at the 2011 Boston Pride pageant.

He has married gay friends in Bermuda, and Mr Ferguson holds out hope that the option would remain if he came back.

The island's same-sex argument is “not something I'm caught up on, because on some levels it's just political” — but Mr Ferguson flew home for last year's referendum, and admitted to being “devastated” when voters turned it down.

But performing in drag, on the same stage where he watched the Christmas pantomime as a child, shows that “Bermuda is still a lot farther ahead than when I lived there”.

“Doing drag is all about sharing the joy with the audience,” he said.

“It's fun, and I love for people to have a good time.”

Civil unions were branded “not something that is culturally acceptable” by David Burt, the Premier, just before the General Election in July.

And domestic partnerships will likely face staunch disapproval from the group Preserve Marriage, which opposed civil unions and same-sex marriage in equal measure.

Jeff Baron, the Shadow Minister of National Security, this week likened Mr Brown's draft Bill to “a beach umbrella — it's shady and easily collapsible”.

Mr Baron added: “It's a flimsy attempt at appeasement and middle ground.

The problem for Minister Brown and his PLP colleagues is that the people know true equality doesn't require compromise or conditions. Everyone in Bermuda who desires equality should continue to speak out against it.”

However, he welcomed the use of his quotes on Bermuda's same-sex ruling in an equality campaign poster in Australia, calling it “proof positive that our words and deeds as leaders in Bermuda can truly be global in their reach and impact”.

Tickets for Friday's show, which starts at 9pm, are available for $50 at Shannon's Boutique, and online at www.bdatix.com .

U-turn makes UK news

Bermuda's bid to outlaw gay marriage just months after a court ruled it was legal has been highlighted in the UK.

PinkNews.co.uk, said the island could become the first country in the world to re-ban same-sex marriages after Walton Brown, the Home Affairs Minister, tabled a Bill to water it down to “a domestic partnership arrangement” open to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

A government spokeswoman said: “It should be noted that all same-sex couples who are already married will not have this designation taken away from them.”

PinkNews which bills itself as the premier LGBT news outlet in the UK, outlined the intended purpose of Mr Brown's Domestic Partnership Bill and the potential repercussions for cruise liners that have already taken marriage bookings in an article last Friday.

Bermuda return: Rod Ferguson takes his crown to the streets at the 2012 Boston Pride Parade (Photograph by Ted Charles)

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Published November 08, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated November 08, 2017 at 9:00 am)

Banning same-sex marriage an ‘embarrassment’

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