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DeGeneres targets Bermuda over gay marriage

Decrying Bermuda: US comedian and TV host Ellen DeGeneres (File photograph)

An online row erupted after comedian and TV star Ellen DeGeneres launched a Twitter broadside against Bermuda.

Ms DeGeneres who is married to a woman and has more than 77 million Twitter followers, attacked the island’s Domestic Partnerships Act.

She wrote: “Bermuda just banned marriage equality, I guess I’m cancelling my trip. Anybody else?”

Responses ranged from pleas against a tourism boycott to condemnation of Ms DeGeneres, whose talk show attracts almost three million viewers an episode.

Some backers of same-sex marriage have asked for a Bermuda boycott over the legislative removal of same-sex marriage, but others criticised the call.

The Royal Gazette understands that the Ministry of Economic Development and Tourism, along with the Bermuda Tourism Authority, has liaised with some global media organisations since the Act was passed by legislators in December 2017.

The BTA declined to comment yesterday.

The tourism ministry referred to a statement last week by tourism minister Jamahl Simmons on handling “the international media coverage of the Domestic Partnership Act”.

Mr Simmons said work was in train to “formulate the proper response that ensures travel consumers know Bermuda is a destination welcoming to everyone, including the LGBT community”.

The DeGeneres tweet linked to the CrowdJustice campaign of Rod Ferguson, a gay Bermudian who has mounted a challenge in the Supreme Court against the new law.

Mr Ferguson said he did not support the attempt to boycott the island.

He added: “Neither can I ask LGBT foreigners to visit a place that has made such a publicly hostile statement to the world on how the majority, but not all, of its population feels about them.”

Mr Ferguson said: “Unfortunately, you reap what you sow. My focus is the legal challenge and helping with fundraising for it. If the challenge succeeds, maybe we’ll have some better PR.”

He added Ms DeGeneres’s tweet raised awareness of the island’s “ban of marriage equality”, but that the clicks had not translated into support for his campaign.

Mr Ferguson said: “It hasn’t had much of an impact on the crowdfunding. There was one very generous anonymous donation today, from someone who thinks in Bermudian or US dollar amounts, but I doubt if that donor was doing so in response to a tweet.”

Attempts yesterday by The Royal Gazette to reach Ms DeGeneres were unsuccessful. Mr Ferguson said he had not heard from the TV host.

He added: “If I did, I’d encourage her to speak with representatives of organisations such as OutBermuda, the Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda, and Same Love Bermuda, who are more informed of the situation on the island, and have ideas of how to help make things better for queer Bermudians and address the problem of homophobia in Bermuda.

“I disagree with Bermudians who would blame any negative consequences to tourism and Bermuda’s economy on those raising awareness of what the Bermuda Government has done.

“Any blame rests squarely on the Bermuda Government and those who put them in power. People are going to vote with their feet based on the information they have and they’re probably not going to do a lot of research on how Bermuda compares to other islands.

“That may not be fair, but that’s the world we live in. Twitter isn’t built for nuance.”

Leah Scott, the shadow tourism minister said she had not supported the Domestic Partnership Act and “wholeheartedly” disagreed with the reversal of the May 2017 court ruling that paved the way for same-sex marriage, on the basis that “the intentional deprivation of anyone’s rights is unjustifiably unfair”.

She added: “I am against the termination of the legal recognition that same-sex couples enjoyed; it was wrong.

“The court made a ruling and notwithstanding my own personal beliefs, I am of the view that the said ruling should stand.”

Ms Scott said: “Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation president Sarah Kate Ellis and screenwriter Peter Paige are encouraging people to boycott Bermuda through their tweets, using the hashtag #BoycottBermuda.”

She said: “Nowadays, consumers are making personal consumption choices by how they feel about ethical issues.

“The cost of a social issue and economic boycott on Bermuda’s tourism product, based on the passage of the DPA, could be socially and economically devastating.”

She said that support for LGBT tourism could bring “positive impacts to Bermuda that go way beyond the economic benefits.

“Bermuda is an inclusive jurisdiction; our culture is one that embraces the differences in people. Collectively, we can create a sustainable, quality tourism product that includes everyone”.

In response to Ms DeGeneres’s tweet, OBA MP Jeff Baron wrote that the Government, rather than Bermuda, had overturned same-sex marriage, and that he was among “thousands of Bermudians who will keep fighting for equality for all”.

Former World Wrestling Entertainment champion John Layfield called it “disappointing” the Government had “decided to legalise discrimination”.

He wrote: “Welcome to the dark ages.”

Winton Brangman also replied to Ms DeGeneres’s tweet.

Mr Brangman said he was an “openly gay manager at Rosewood Bermuda” and offered to be interviewed by Ms DeGeneres.

He added: “I hope that you see this and we can collectively fight for the small LGBT family in Bermuda.”

Hannah Collins called herself a fan as well as being a “queer Bermudian” and added that “this really hurts”. She wrote: “Don’t #BoycottBermuda. Use your power and privilege to help.”

Another said: “Come and support us instead of hating on us, The fight goes on.”