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OBA: independent Pettingill unlikely

Mark Pettingill (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A source within the One Bermuda Alliance has said the party is not concerned about the possibility of Mark Pettingill becoming an independent MP in the wake of a heated debate on same-sex marriage.

Mr Pettingill, who has repeatedly spoken out in favour of same-sex marriage, had told The Royal Gazette that he was “galled and completely ashamed” of his party after numerous party members voted in favour of an amendment intended to maintain marriage as between a man and a woman.

While he said he would consider his position with the party over the summer, a party source said yesterday there was little fear of Mr Pettingill leaving the party over the same-sex marriage rift: while many within the OBA were rankled by the “poorly-written” legislation, Mr Pettingill was said to be the only vocally angry MP.

The source added that it was highly unlikely that the former Attorney-General would follow his colleague Shawn Crockwell in becoming an independent.

Should Mr Pettingill — or any other OBA MP — choose to become independent, it would leave the House with 17 OBA MPs and 17 Progressive Labour Party MPs, along with two independent members. A total of 20 MPs voted in favour of the amendments to the Human Rights Act, including eight OBA members and 12 members of the PLP.

Pettingill said: “Quitting is not an option. I will support the Premier and the Government in doing the right things that bring about positive change for Bermuda.” Meanwhile seven OBA MPs voted against the amendments, along with Mr Crockwell and two PLP members. Michael Dunkley, the Premier, abstained from the vote, while Opposition leader Marc Bean and PLP backbencher Zane DeSilva were absent. Suzann Roberts Holshouser and Susan Jackson of the OBA were unable to cast votes on the issue as they were serving as Acting Speaker and chairperson of the Committee of the Whole House respectively. Last night David Burt, the acting Opposition leader, criticised Mr Dunkley’s decision to abstain from voting on the issue, calling it a demonstration of “weak leadership”.

“Instead of stepping up to the plate when a leader should, he has cowered in the shadows afraid of making tough decisions, while hiding behind poor excuses,” he said.

“While the public may take issues with the stances taken by some MPs, the real dereliction of duty has come from the premier.”