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Bill stops same-sex marriage

A House divided: parliamentarians voted by 20-10 to pass the Bill that ensures marriage remains as solely between a man and a woman, mirroring the result of the “unanswered” referendum

Amendments aimed at solidifying marriage as between a man and a woman were passed in the House of Assembly last night, despite vocal opposition.

And in the wake of the vote, One Bermuda Alliance backbencher Mark Pettingill said he is ashamed of his party. “How it will affect my position [in the One Bermuda Alliance] over the summer, I don’t know,” he said.

The amendments, tabled by Wayne Furbert and further amended by Trevor Moniz, the Attorney-General, state that nothing in the Human Rights Act would override the provisions of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1974, which provides that marriages are void unless they are between a man and a woman.

A total of 20 MPs voted in favour of the amended Bill with ten, including Mr Moniz, voting against it.

Michael Dunkley, the Premier, abstained from voting, telling the House that he had asked Mr Furbert to set back the Bill for a week so he could discuss the matter with the Human Rights Commission.

Marc Bean and Zane DeSilva were not present, while Deputy Speaker Suzann Roberts Holshouser was unable to vote because she was serving as Speaker at the time.

The vote came after almost two hours of debate in which parliamentarians spoke out strongly on both sides of the issue.

Mr Pettingill, the Progressive Labour Party’s Walton Brown and independent MP Shawn Crockwell voiced vociferous opposition to the legislation, which they argued was a retrograde step for human rights on the island.

Opening his speech by reading the opening paragraph of the Human Rights Act, Mr Pettingill said that everyone on the island deserved the same rights, regardless of sexual orientation.

“It’s a human rights issue because of what our Human Rights Act says,” he said. “That every human being is entitled to the same service as any human being.”

Mr Crockwell, meanwhile, said that the amendments being debated were in themselves discriminatory. “We are in breach of the Human Rights Act if we pass this,” he said. “We will look regressive, we will look unfriendly and we will look intolerant.”

And Mr Brown said that human rights should not be trampled by the will of the majority, calling the legislation offensive.

“If we don’t do it, the courts will do it anyway,” he said. “How embarrassing would that be? Our responsibility is to lead. We cannot allow the courts to do it because we don’t have the conviction.”

They were joined by several other OBA members, including Grant Gibbons, Glenn Smith and Patricia Gordon Pamplin, who spoke out against the amendments.

However, Mr Furbert was joined by Craig Cannonier, Sylvan Richards and Wayne Scott, who said the matter was not one of human rights.

Mr Furbert told the House that while the recent referendum may not have been officially answered, it clearly showed the direction the public want to go in.

Noting the Premier’s insistence on speaking with the Human Rights Commission before casting a vote, he said: “I heard the people say loud and clear where they want to stand. I’m not listening to three people when 10,000 people already said no.”

He further stated that same-sex marriage is not a human rights issue, saying the majority of legislation states under the European Convention of Human Rights had established marriage as between a man and a woman.

Stating his opposition to same-sex marriage, Mr Cannonier also cited the referendum. “When the people speak, we must listen to bring good legislation to the table,” he said.

And Mr Scott said that when he brought forward amendments to the Human Rights Act to prevent discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, the intent was not to allow same-sex marriage. Mr Pettingill, who as a lawyer represents a gay couple seeking to marry on the island, said the vote would not deter him from pursuing the matter through the courts.

However he told The Royal Gazette he was ashamed to see members of his own party vote against the matter.

“I generally knew the PLP would vote that way,” he said. “Walton Brown and Michael Scott were courageous. You have got to expect nothing less; they are intellectuals.

“I’m galled and completely ashamed of members on my side of the House. They didn’t have the sensibility to stand up on this issue. A lot of that was driven by the fact that they are just looking at the political position on votes and that’s equally disgusting.

“I’m reflecting on this. I feel very bruised right now and saddened and, frankly, astounded that I’m associated with so many narrow-minded people; people I consider to be my friends. It’s astounding to discover that people can be that narrow-minded.

“This hurts me, I feel very hurt that this is what our Parliament has chosen to do.

“I don’t necessarily believe that the Governor will assent to this nonsense, given the UK’s position on this. It’s not law yet. This doesn’t impact on the position on the matter still going to court [Godwin and DeRoche marriage application].”

<p>How they voted over issue</p>

Voted Yes

Jeanne Atherden (OBA)

Kenneth Bascome (OBA)

Derrick Burgess (PLP)

David Burt (PLP)

Craig Cannonier (OBA)

Rolfe Commissiong (PLP)

Lovitta Foggo (PLP)

Wayne Furbert (PLP)

Dennis Lister (PLP)

Diallo Rabain (PLP)

Bob Richards (OBA)

Sylvan Richards (OBA)

Walter Roban (PLP)

Leah Scott (OBA)

Wayne Scott (OBA)

Lawrence Scott (PLP)

Jamahl Simmons (PLP)

Cole Simons (OBA)

Michael Weeks (PLP)

Kim Wilson (PLP)

Voted No

Walton Brown (PLP)

Shawn Crockwell (IND)

Grant Gibbons (OBA)

Patricia Gordon Pamplin (OBA)

Trevor Moniz (OBA)

Nandi Outerbridge (OBA)

Mark Pettingill (OBA)

Michael Scott (PLP)

Glen Smith (OBA)

Jeff Sousa (OBA)


Michael Dunkley (OBA)


Marc Bean (PLP)

Zane DeSilva (PLP)

• Speaker Randy Horton was absent, meaning Suzann Roberts Holshouser (OBA) was Acting Speaker and did not vote. Susan Jackson (OBA) was Committee Chair and did not vote.