Simmons criticises Dallas for SSM statement
The island's tourism quango yesterday distanced itself from a letter from chief executive Kevin Dallas to warn senators that a vote to end gay marriage would adversely affect visitor numbers.
Tourism minister Jamahl Simmons also criticised Mr Dallas for his “unauthorised statement” and pledged to support the BTA board in taking action to ensure processes and procedures are “respected”.
Earlier this week, Mr Dallas wrote to senators and appealed for them to reject legislation to replace same-sex marriage with watered-down “domestic partnerships”. Yesterday, senators passed the Domestic Partnership Act in any case.
Responding to Mr Dallas's letter, the Bermuda Tourism Authority's board of directors said it was “focused on driving the success of tourism in Bermuda, by making our island an appealing destination, and marketing it to potential visitors”.
It added: “We strive to provide useful information to support any tourism-related debate in Bermuda, including the Domestic Partnership Bill.
“As an organisation we respect all views and opinions on this matter, and remain focused on our primary objective — bringing more visitors to Bermuda.
But the board said: “To be clear, however, the Bermuda Tourism Authority is a non-political entity and decisions about Bermuda's policies and laws are outside the Bermuda Tourism Authority's remit and are the responsibility of Parliament.”
It added: “We have full trust in Bermuda's elected and appointed officials to effectively carry out the democratic process on behalf of Bermuda's citizens.”
In a statement on Bernews.com, Mr Simmons said: “I take note of the statement on the Domestic Partnership Bill by Kevin Dallas, CEO of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, as well as his lobbying efforts throughout the community.
“I have been informed that this statement and accompanying lobbying efforts were done without the knowledge, or the consent of the BTA chairman Paul Telford or the board.
“While ultimately Mr Dallas's actions are a matter for the board and the chair I have, on behalf of the Cabinet, communicated my disappointment with Mr Dallas's unauthorised statement and will support the board in whatever action they wish to undertake to ensure the established processes and procedures surrounding public statements are respected.”
Mr Dallas told senators: “We believe the Bill poses an unnecessary threat to the success of our tourism industry.
“We urge you to vote no and appreciate the opportunity to lay out the reasons why. Importantly, we do not view domestic partnerships as a negative in isolation.
“In fact, many jurisdictions permit domestic partnerships without adverse impacts on their economies.”
But he warned: “Bermuda is different — and troubling — in one important way — same-sex marriage is already the law of our island and to roll that back for what will be seen as a less equal union will cause us serious reputational damage.
“We are convinced it will result in lost tourism business for Bermuda.”
Mr Dallas added that the island not only risked a loss of LGBT tourists, but also a backlash from companies, consumers and travellers — especially younger tourists — who had strong pro-gay marriage views.
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