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Gay couple appeal for dignity

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The first Bermudian to marry her gay partner on island has spoken out against steps to repeal same-sex marriage, declaring: “One day all will know that love is love.”

Julia and Judith Aidoo-Saltus, who were married on May 31, spoke as senators prepare today to debate legislation to introduce domestic partnerships.

Yesterday, the couple told The Royal Gazette in a joint statement: “Love is love. Our marriage remains lawful under the laws of Bermuda and is sacred before our friends, our families and our God.”

Julia, a Bermudian lawyer, married her Ghanaian-American partner Judith after a landmark Supreme Court ruling that paved the way for same-sex marriage in Bermuda.

However, last Friday, MPs voted 24-10 in favour of the Domestic Partnership Act to replace same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships.

The couple pointed to a comment from late American marriage equality activist Edith Windsor, who said: “Marriage is a magic word. And it is magic throughout the world. It has to do with our dignity as human beings, to be who we are openly.”

They added: “Accordingly, we will continue to pray for all those who are struggling with this basic issue of marriage as a measure of a society's understanding of human dignity and, ultimately, respect. Fortunately, we believe in miracles and in God. One day, all will know that love is love. And it is free.”

Yesterday, Kevin Dallas, chief executive of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, warned that the Bill would damage tourism and urged senators to vote against it.

Bermudian Bruce Whayman married his partner, Roland Maertens, on the island in September.

The couple said they were “disturbed and saddened” by Friday's events in the House of Assembly and branded the Government's “backward agenda” an “international embarrassment”.

Mr Whayman said: “Bermuda is being run by a party that is progressive by name, but not by nature.

“The country has a net debt of $3.7 billion and growing daily, yet one of the first policy decisions from this government is to discriminate against a minority of its population and simultaneously discourage an untapped new market from coming to Bermuda and spending up on what would be the happiest moment of their lives.

“A legal marriage offers equality under the law. Equality is what this is all about. Please don't patronise the LGBT community by offering domestic partnership agreements. They are widely unrecognised worldwide.

“Our last hope is that equality and common sense prevail, and the Bill will not receive the requisite signature from the Governor of Bermuda.”

Meanwhile, an American man who also wed in Bermuda said repeal of same-sex marriage would create inequality within the island's gay community.

The man said he was “struggling” with the reality that should the Act become law his relationship would be classified as a marriage while other same-sex couples would have partnerships.

“We will have inequality in our own section of the community,” said the man, who spoke with the Gazette on the condition of anonymity.

“I find this so strange. To be one of the six or seven couples with that title doesn't make me feel good — it makes me feel even more divided than ever.”

The man and his partner were married on November 6. It was the sixth same-sex marriage performed in Bermuda.

A Ministry of Home Affairs spokeswoman confirmed yesterday that one additional same-sex marriage had since been performed, with another “scheduled to take place before the end of the year”.

The man said he had experienced the same debate on same-sex marriage in the United States, and that he had hoped to come to Bermuda with his husband to “live a normal life”.

However, he added: “But as I visit more and more I feel like I'm going back in the closet more each day.

“This doesn't represent all of Bermuda, but certain interactions I've had, either going to a restaurant with my husband or going through immigration and customs and mentioning that I am married to a Bermudian, doesn't always get the warmest welcoming.

“Sometimes it's easier for me to blend in like a tourist because no one looks at me differently.”

He said that the couple had worked with an on-island lawyer who advised they marry as soon as possible ahead of changes “coming down the pipeline”.

He said he and his partner together decided to tie the knot ahead of a possible change in law. It meant not being able to take time to plan a ceremony that included family and friends.

“Marrying at the Registrar was not what either of us wanted for our special day,” he said.

“But it had to be done to safeguard our relationship.”

He said he hoped that John Rankin, the Governor, would not sign off on the Act should it pass in the Senate.

OutBermuda, a gay rights advocacy group, said it felt the consultation period on the controversial legislation had been inadequate.

“Most importantly, our efforts to engage in good faith with the Ministry of Home Affairs during the consultation process should not be viewed as our approving the spirit of the domestic partnership legislation,” the group said on Facebook.

The organisation said it would continue to advocate for all issues affecting Bermuda's LGBTQ population, including marriage equality.

Questions sent to representatives with Preserve Marriage and the Rainbow Alliance had not been responded to by press time.

On occasion The Royal Gazette may decide to not allow comments on a story that we deem might inflame sensitivities or discontinue them when the discourse is lowered by commenters to unacceptable standards. As we are legally liable for any libellous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.

Love is love: Julia Aidoo-Saltus
Saddened: Roland Maertens and Bruce Whayman (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published December 13, 2017 at 5:42 am (Updated December 13, 2017 at 6:29 pm)

Gay couple appeal for dignity

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