Same-sex marriage fight is not over, says human rights activist
The island’s legal avenues for marriage equality have probably been exhausted – but younger Bermudians will continue to push the issue, a human rights activist warned.
Linda Bogle-Mienzer, one of the island’s more prominent voices in support of same-sex marriage, said yesterday that it remained her “honest, deep-down feeling” that Bermuda was now “probably closer to people favouring marriage equality than we were just a few years ago”.
The labour organiser who married her wife, Christine, in 2018, spoke after Walter Roban, the home affairs minister, brought an amendment on same-sex marriage before legislators on Friday in the House of Assembly.
If passed, the Domestic Partnership Amendment Act 2022 will protect same-sex marriages that went ahead before a Privy Council ruling in March found that restricting marriage to between a man and a woman was not unconstitutional.
The ruling by the UK’s top court of appeal meant that the Bermuda Government had to take legal advice on the status of same-sex marriages that proceeded during the protracted court battle after the Domestic Partnership Act was approved.
Ms Bogle-Mienzer said that “initially when I heard it, I couldn’t fathom it” but did not believe the Progressive Labour Party would allow for people’s marriages to be voided.
“It would have been incredibly strange for a progressive government,” she added.
She noted that the previous minister, the late Walton Brown, had stated that same-sex marriages that had gone ahead before the Domestic Partnership Act would not be under threat.
But Ms Bogle-Mienzer said for later marriages to get struck down because of the Privy Council would have been “extremely disappointing and out of character” – and that the announcement the Government was seeking legal advice had caused disquiet.
“There were a few couples who had got married and who reached out to me. I said I didn’t see it happening; I think they’re going to do the right thing. It wasn’t like reinventing the wheel.”
She added: “But you can never say 100 per cent because different ministers have a different influence.
“I was glad to see Minister Roban did the right thing and put forward the amendment.”
Ms Bogle-Mienzer said the PLP was “still driven by a huge religious voter base – it’s going to take something pretty drastic to push them away from it”.
She also acknowledged that domestic partnerships had “created something for same-sex couples that we didn’t have before – it’s certainly better than the protections that were in place before”.
But she said domestic partnership was not exclusive to same-sex couples.
Nor was it the same as marriage, since they were not legally recognised in many countries as well as parts of the US.
“Any time something isn’t universally recognised, they can’t be the same – it’s a no-brainer.
“Wherever I go in the world I can say this is my wife, we are legally married, and that has to be universally accepted.”
Ms Bogle-Mienzer said the only sure way for a domestic partnership to be free of challenge would be “if you never intend to leave Bermuda”.
“If they were the same, both terms would not be needed.”
She conceded that marriage equality in Bermuda was “probably done and dusted as a legal fight”.
“But as a country, I think we’re going to have to continue to have this discussion, because the next generation are just not going to accept it.
“Then it will become a matter of an amendment by the Government. And this Government is going to have to answer these questions from younger folk who are not prepared to marginalise anybody.
“It’s going to be on the radar, and continues to be. Young people who do not have the fears I had growing up, fears a lot of adults have in terms of visibility – they are going to continue the narrative.”
Ms Bogle-Mienzer said she had just served as a Bermuda Day Parade marshal as someone with a highly public stance on marriage equality.
Meanwhile, she said public officials had conspicuously avoided acknowledging June as LGBTQ pride month.
“If you have domestic partnerships, and you say it’s for same-sex couples, then you are recognising they exist in the country – but you say nothing about Pride month?”
She added: “You’ll tiptoe around it and now it’s day 20 and not one minister has said something? When you just approved an openly gay person to be one of your Bermuda Day marshals?
“We have to do better.”