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‘Conscience vote’ on Human Rights Act amendments for PLP MPs

The Opposition Progressive Labour Party is to allow its MPs to vote their consciences on amendments to the Human Rights Act.

But PLP Leader Marc Bean has urged his parliamentary colleagues to canvass their constituents before exercising their vote.

Government tabled amendments to the Human Rights Act on Friday which would prohibit sexual orientation discrimination, expand the definition of harassment beyond the workplace and prohibit age discrimination in all areas except the workplace.

The Opposition party’s deliberations appear to have been focused on the sexual orientation amendment.

“As Leader, I have decided that an issue such as this, with such a strong moral underpinning is best to be determined by way of a conscience vote,” Mr Bean told

The Royal Gazette at the House of Assembly on Friday.

“And so when the legislation comes to the House to be debated in two weeks’ time you will see that the Progressive Labour Party will be voting based on conscience. We will not apply a three-line whip to the process but at the same time as I have spoken to my colleagues, we have to remember that when exercising our vote in conscience we are representatives of the people.

“So it’s incumbent upon us to go out and canvass and to discuss with as many persons as possible what their views are, regardless of what our views may be, and to ensure that you give adequate representation to the people you represent.

“And so conscience means not only for the individual but, because we’re MPs, we also have to be reflective of the conscience of the collective whom we represent.”

Mr Bean said there were many gaps in human rights legislation that are yet to be addressed — including age and mental health discrimination, and “association” discrimination.

“For some reasons, the One Bermuda Alliance Government is just focused on this one particular issue of sexual orientation. But from our perspective its going to be based on a conscience vote.”

Mr Bean went on to say he believes the final goal of the sexual orientation amendment is legalisation of same sex marriage.

Community Development Minister Wayne Scott has repeatedly stated the proposal has nothing to do with same sex marriage.

“I’m not sure why he would say that,” Mr Bean said, adding that in other jurisdictions a move to outlaw sexual orientation discrimination had “quickly moved towards a move for same sex marriage.”

He said: “For instance two years ago, this issue of two words and a comma was an issue in Bermuda. But since then it’s not really been an issue. The focus has been on same sex marriage and that is coming from external influences.

“So to claim there is a distinction or separation between the two, many feel that this is actually just a logical step from sexual orientation to a quest for same sex marriage and so naturally you are going to get a lot of resistance from people — not necessarily all from the church — but people who have a moral bearing within their own conscience of what they see as right or wrong, and they will see it as a slippery slope.”

Mr Bean said his own view was based on his own examination of other jurisdictions.

“All I see is a move toward same sex marriage and so, yes, that is a concern. And it’s more concerning because people are not honest. I do have a colleague who got up in caucus and said it straight up — ‘look, the agenda at the end of the day is same sex marriage’ And I appreciated that honesty. What I do not appreciate is people saying one thing and their intention is something different.”

He continued: “You could go on Wikipedia and see sexual orientation and it will tell you that the end game is same sex marriage. That’s not a hidden issue. It’s not something that people outside of this country who are dealing with gay rights hide. But in Bermuda we are tiptoeing around the issue.”

Mr Bean declined to say how he would vote in advance of the actual debate in parliament.

On Sunday, PLP MP for Warwick South East Lawrence Scott launched an online survey to gauge his constituents’ views on a number of hot button issues including the so called “two words” amendment.

“When I rise, speak and vote in Parliament I will be guided by the indication I receive from the collective response of Constituency 24," Mr Scott said in a party statement on the survey.

l See tomorrow’s paper for part two of the interview with Mr Bean.

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Published May 21, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated May 21, 2013 at 12:11 am)

‘Conscience vote’ on Human Rights Act amendments for PLP MPs

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