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Furbert may seek to outlaw same sex marriage

An amendment prohibiting same sex marriage could be proposed in the House of Assembly when legislators debate changes to the Human Rights Act.

Opposition MP Wayne Furbert told

The Royal Gazette that he is concerned that a proposed bill which would prohibit sexual orientation discrimination could open the way to same sex marriage.

“I fully support people’s rights — the right to work, the right to live, but the part that bothers me is the service portion which concerns the right to get married,” Mr Furbert said.

Government wants to add sexual orientation to the list of prohibited categories of discrimination, in the areas of the provision of goods, services and facilities, housing and employment.

Mr Furbert considers that the amendment could mean that a same sex couple could then demand the right to be married at the Registrar General.

“I’m considering bringing an amendment to define marriage as between male and female,” he said.

Government has stated that the amendment will not open the way to same sex marriage. Bermuda’s Marriage Act does not specify that the parties intending to be married must be of different sexes.

Government also proposes to prohibit age discrimination in all areas except the workplace — an exception which is problematic for some members of the Progressive Labour Party.

When in opposition the One Bermuda Alliance lauded the PLP Government’s plans to prohibit age discrimination in the workplace, but it now says more research needs to be done.

Deputy PLP Leader Derrick Burgess is not buying that rationale. “We don’t have age discrimination in the UK. That was outlawed in 2010. Why do we have it here?” he asked. “Age discrimination in the workplace affects everybody regardless of who you are. That to me must come first — particularly at a time when our birth rate is the lowest it’s ever been.”

He said Government could use the UK legislation as a base and added: “It’s not rocket science.”

Mr Burgess suspects that Government is stalling on the age discrimination provision because it wants to cull the Civil Service workforce.

“They want to get rid of some people before they put it in,” he said.

Currently, civil servants retire at 65 but the head of the Civil Service has discretion to keep someone on until the age of 70.

PLP MPs will be allowed to vote their consciences when the Human Rights Amendment Act 2013 is debated. While some share Mr Furbert’s anxiety about same sex marriage, others like Walton Brown are unequivocal in their support.

Deputy Leader Derrick Burgess finds the sexual orientation amendment objectionable because he sees no need for it.

“I don’t see any evidence of any discrimination against gays or lesbians,” said Deputy Opposition Leader Derrick Burgess. “If I saw that, regardless of who they are, I would probably be the first to defend them.”

“I am against all sorts of discrimination when it comes to people. You and I live through it. If anybody’s affected by discrimination, it’s us.”

Still Mr Burgess says he will not be voting for the amendment. “I cannot vote for it. What about the other people that are discriminated against. What about the obese?”

Warwick MP Lawrence Scott said he had surveyed his constituents and his analysis of the survey would determine his vote.

Shadow Health Minister Zane DeSilva said he had no issues with “anyone who may have gay preferences” and he supported the right of people to work as long as they wanted if they were capable. But he would not say whether he planned to support Government’s bill.

PLP MP Wayne Furbert

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Published June 12, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated June 12, 2013 at 12:13 am)

Furbert may seek to outlaw same sex marriage

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