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Government accused of religious sectarianism

Adrian Hartnett-Beasley was only 9 when his church in Bermuda voted on whether gay people should be welcomed as members and if they should be eligible to be ministers.

He said: “I didn't understand the complexities of what was being asked of us and certainly at that time didn't fully comprehend the complexities of my own, or anyone else's sexuality.

“But I felt Christian love and affirmation during those times from the adults around me.”

Mr Hartnett-Beasley highlighted the 1988 United Church of Canada ballot in a sworn affidavit to the Supreme Court in support of a legal challenge against the Domestic Partnership Act.

The law, due to come into effect next month, ends same-sex marriages in Bermuda and replaces them with domestic partnerships.

Mr Hartnett-Beasley's church, Wesley Methodist in Hamilton, voted to welcome gay people into its fold 30 years ago, along with most of the UCC.

The 38-year-old lawyer said: “My faith was cemented into place during that time. What better way to ground an awkward and scared gay youth than to show that who he is as a person is supported by his faith community, irrespective of what the Government, schools or others may have said.”

The OutBermuda deputy chairman, who married his husband, Shane, in 2015 after adopting a child with him the previous year, said in his affidavit that the DPA was designed to appease an element of the island's religious community opposed to gay marriage.

Mr Hartnett-Beasley added: “Government has used the force of the state to impose a sectarian religious belief on everyone, whether they share that belief or not.

“Not only is that religious belief not universally held across all people in Bermuda, it is not even universally held across all religious people in Bermuda.

“As such, the Bermuda Government is actively siding against and declaring invalid any differing religious beliefs, actively siding with one religious group against other religious groups, and actively siding with one religious group against the non-religious.”

Mr Hartnett-Beasley married in New York in 2015, followed by an exchange of vows with Shane at Wesley Methodist — the first same-sex blessing at the church.

Wesley opened its doors to Bermuda's gay community and their friends in 2016 for a special service to show its support for LGBT people after a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

The church has also backed OutBermuda's constitutional challenge against the DPA, a civil case being argued before Chief Justice Ian Kawaley this week.

Gordon Campbell, a member of the Wesley congregation, said in his affidavit that the legislation would prevent Wesley from choosing for itself whether to carry out same-sex marriages.

Mr Hartnett-Beasley said that, like many Bermudians, he grew up saying his prayers and attending Sunday school and now his young son does the same.

He added: “On the Sundays that he doesn't come, I am routinely asked how he is doing and more sternly ‘why doesn't he come more?'”

“He is loved and supported by our church in his own right, the same way the three of us are as a family.

“Our son is part of the sixth generation of our family that have attended Wesley and the circle of people that care for him and want the best for him continues to grow.”

Mr Hartnett-Beasley added: “While I truly believe my relationship with God is personal, having a church family like mine, and enjoying my interactions and involvement with them, with the support and love we have experienced as a family, has been of paramount importance to the man I am today.

“Shane and I are gay and we are Christian. We have each struggled at times to reconcile these aspects of our lives but I am glad to say that we have done so, we continue to be gay and we continue to be Christian — they are not mutually exclusive.

“After all, I believe we were all made in God's image, and he loves all of us and has instructed us to love each other as well.”

It is The Royal Gazette's policy not to allow comments on stories regarding court cases. 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.

Adrian Hartnett-Beasley and husband Shane after their 2015 wedding in New York (Photograph courtesy of Allebach Photography)

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Published May 24, 2018 at 9:00 am (Updated May 24, 2018 at 11:18 am)

Government accused of religious sectarianism

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