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Preserve Marriage claims HRC is out of step

A group opposed to same-sex marriage and civil unions claimed yesterday that the Human Rights Commission had overstepped its boundaries by criticising legislation passed by MPs in Parliament last Friday.

Preserve Marriage disagreed with the HRC’s view that the amendment to the Human Rights Act, which specifies that no element of that legislation can allow same-sex marriage, would “legally permit discrimination against individuals of a protected class, thereby enshrining discrimination in the very Act that was put in place to protect against it”.

The HRC said it was “deeply disturbed” by the amendment, arguing that “human rights are inherent, inalienable and universal entitlements of individual human beings, neither of state nor of ‘cultural norms’ or even the will of the majority”.

But Preserve Marriage said in a statement that same-sex marriage was not a human right under the European Convention of Human Rights and the convention applied to Bermuda.

“The Human Rights Commission is overstepping their boundaries by going against the European Convention,” alleged the group.

It said the European Court of Human Rights had pledged not to put an obligation on governments to grant same-sex couples access to marriage, had observed that “marriage has deep-rooted social and cultural connotations which may differ largely from one society to another” and had stated it “must not rush to substitute its own judgment in place of that of the national authorities, who are best placed to assess and respond to the needs of society”.

The statement said 13 contracting states under the European Convention had recently “fortified their legislative frameworks to retain the definition of marriage between a man and a woman, which is simply what Bermuda is trying to do now”.

And it said the island was in step with “193 countries” which still retained marriage between a man and a woman, demonstrating that “across a wide range of races, ethnicities, political frameworks, cultures and religions there is a common view of marriage being between a man and a woman”. The statement added: “The overwhelming majority recognise that the redefinition of marriage leads to a reordering of society.”

The group said the Bill tabled by Opposition MP Wayne Furbert, which will be debated in the Senate today, was a welcome fortification of the Human Rights Act and would prevent costly legal battles against the Government, by consolidating the island’s position on same-sex marriage.

“The truth is, benefits are available to all people without having to introduce same-sex civil unions, which legally leads to same-sex marriage, or same-sex marriage, whether for seniors that live together for economic reasons, married or single persons who need hospital visitation rights, medical decisions that have to be made through a power of attorney, property inheritance by a will, medical rights for dependents who require it, or beneficiary rights in a pension. These can be summarised legally, which is in process by Preserve Marriage Bermuda and will be presented to the Bermuda Government.”

For full Preserve Marriage statement click on the PDF link under “Related Media”.