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OBA MPs speak out on vote

Deputy Premier Bob Richards

Finance minister and Deputy Premier Bob Richards believes gay couples should have all the same legal rights as heterosexual spouses — but they should not be granted the right to marry.

Mr Richards is one of several One Bermuda Alliance politicians to give his opinion on same-sex marriage following a successful vote to amend the Human Rights Act to solidify marriage as being between a man and a woman.

National security minister Senator Jeffrey Baron, MP Suzann Roberts Holshouser and MP Mark Pettingill all gave varying views on the outcome of the vote and the issue of same-sex marriage in Bermuda.

Mr Richards voted for the amendment, brought by Progressive Labour Party MP Wayne Furbert, to go ahead but he has been a vocal supporter of civil unions in the past.

He acknowledged that civil unions do not grant equal rights but said that was something that could be ironed out on in the future.

Mr Richards told The Royal Gazette: “Marriage is intrinsically, in its very nature, between a man and a woman and I don’t think it can be reformed into something it is not. This is not a religious standpoint — a lot of people have an opinion as it relates to religion. I am a Christian, I go to church. You look in the bible and it is replete with examples of people being married who aren’t Christian.

“Look at the world we have today there are not just Christians . . . every religion, every culture has marriage between a man and a woman.

“Marriage is a construct by the human species to do two things — to obey the dictates of nature, to procreate, and to socialise children. That is what marriage is about when you step back and look at it in totality.”

Mr Richards added that except for the right to be granted marital status, same-sex couples should have no fewer rights.

“I think that gay couples should have all of the rights and privileges provided under law for married couples. I don’t want to deny them those legal structures. Civil union does get us there to a certain extent but those things can be fixed. We haven’t even got to civil unions yet so let’s not run before we can walk.

“I am disappointed it didn’t get to civil unions. I have always been of the opinion that gay people should have their civil rights. We live in a pluralistic society and we have to take account for people that are different from us and I think that is key. It is who we are as humans and I believe I am maybe the only person in my party with this point of view.”

The amendment is yet to be approved by the Senate and will then have to be signed off by the Governor. OBA senator and Minister of National Senator Baron has already said that he intends to vote against the amendments in the Senate on Thursday, saying: “I respect the fact there are strong opinions on this issue. In my view, human rights are indivisible and this is an issue of human rights.

“Every single Bermudian and persons who call Bermuda home — gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgender — every one of them deserves to be treated equally in the eyes of our laws and in the eyes of our diverse society. It is, for me, really that simple.

“I support same sex marriage and as I have previously stated, will vote against the bill passed in the House when it comes before the Senate”.

Ms Roberts-Holshouser could not vote in the House on Friday night as she was Acting Speaker, but told this newspaper she would not have supported the amendment.

“I certainly would have voted against the bill,” she said. “I do not understand how individuals are able to be selective in what one would discriminate against. You can’t be selective and it is very sad. I certainly would have voted against the bill to change the Human Rights Act, absolutely.

“One of the things that is necessary to understand is that it was a conscience vote and as a result you have to respect one another. The one thing that is beneficial about the One Bermuda Alliance is the ability to recognise and accept the fact that people think differently and we have a right to think differently and have a responsibility to not follow like sheep. We are a group of individuals who are different and diversified.”

Mr Pettingill has been an active supporter of same-sex marriage and believes that, regardless of whether the amendment is ultimately approved, there could be a constitutional argument to overrule the decision. He said: “The bill has constitutional issues that clearly prevent it from being valid. The Senate, in properly performing its function, should address that.”