Furbert defiant in defeat
Progressive Labour Party MP Wayne Furbert has vowed to bring his rejected Human Rights Amendment Act back to the House
of Assembly, but is now willing to entertain the possibility of civil unions.
Yesterday, the Senate sent back the Bill, which aimed to solidify marriage as being solely between a man and a woman. Immediately after the Bill was defeated by a vote of 6 to 5, a defiant Mr Furbert told The Royal Gazette: “I respect democracy clearly. This is why we have two chambers: the House and also the Senate.
“We will bring the Bill back. I am sure that the House will overwhelmingly again support it.”
Asked whether he was disappointed with the outcome of the vote, Mr Furbert said: “I'm not disappointed because I respect people's views.
“I am surprised; I did expect one individual to vote yes, but they didn't.
“I listened very closely to the arguments made by those for and against. As you will notice, unfortunately, it was almost broken down by race also, which bothered me.
“It is disappointing but it is based on our cultural upbringing — that is why the African countries are against same-sex marriage and the Western countries are for it. There is a cultural aspect.
“I do not support civil unions. However, I believe that there are some decent arguments with regards to that and I will speak to my colleagues in a harmonious situation with the OBA and Preserve Marriage and the Rainbow Coalition together, to come up with some rights that everyone can feel comfortable with.”
Meanwhile, One Bermuda Alliance Senator Jeff Baron declared himself “absolutely” pleased by the outcome.
“I've said consistently that this Bill should be rejected and it's not because of my belief in marriage equality and it's not because of religious reasons,” he said.
“It's because the Human Rights Act of this country must never move backwards and that is precisely what this Bill tried and failed to do.”
OBA MP Mark Pettingill, who opposed the Bill in the House and is representing Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche as they become the first gay couple to argue in court for the right to marry in Bermuda, told this newspaper: “This was a victory for the human family, a victory for common sense and justice, for good law, for true democracy, which must by its very nature protect minority rights.
“We will now continue the fight through the courts to ensure the protection of all rights equally for all people.”
This morning, Michael Dunkley, the Premier, who was the only MP to abstain in the House, said in a statement: “Through the course of a very busy day, I was able to listen to some of yesterday's Senate debate.
“I commend all the Senators — Government, Opposition and Independent — for their very detailed and thoughtful presentations.
“Based on yesterday's outcome and the non-passage of the Human Rights Amendment Act — it now continues to be critically important for the Government to find a way forward on this very emotive and at times divisive issue.
“Yesterday demonstrates that there is still much work that has to be done. It is my commitment that this government will work closely with everyone in the community to find a way forward for all concerned while ensuring the protection of human rights.
“In the meantime I urge everyone to exercise patience, understanding and continuing goodwill towards each other.”