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Activists hit back at opposition to Pride

Not in support: Michael Weeks (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Gay rights activists hit out yesterday after a government backbencher told the House of Assembly that many on the island did not want a Gay Pride march in Bermuda.

Adrian Hartnett-Beasley said the speech by Michael Weeks was out of order.

He wrote on the Bermuda Pride Supporters Facebook page: “This is why we march.

“MP Weeks makes it clear that it’s not just Pride or marriage equality, it’s all that this issue represents ... everything about the LGBTQ community.

“He even has the audacity to go on to say that he and his constituents understand why we feel underrepresented and unseen and unheard because his constituents are being called out for being homophobic ... hateful ... biased.”

He added: “Well, if it walks and talks like a bigot ... I surely say it’s probably a bigot.”

Mr Hartnett-Beasley was speaking after Mr Weeks spoke about the Pride event, scheduled to be held on August 31, during the motion to adjourn at last Friday’s sitting of the House of Assembly.

Mr Weeks said members of the public had told them they were unhappy about the Pride parade and that the voters had made their opinions clear about “same-sex marriage and all it encompasses” in the 2016 referendum on same sex marriage, which rejected gay marriage.

The majority of those who voted in the 2016 referendum voted against same-sex marriage and civil unions, but less than 50 per cent of registered voters cast a vote.

Mr Weeks told MPs: “I have been approached by many, some of whom are my constituents, who have made it clear to me they are not in support of this kind of event being held on our island.

“Some have also reminded me of the result of the referendum in 2016 and what that stood for.”

He added: “Some will argue, that we live in a democracy and if people want to live their lives as such and march, then they have every right to do so and defend it.

“I venture to say there are some in here tonight, that maintain that view.

“I understand. Why? Because on that same principle of democracy, those against have the same right to stand and oppose it, without the threat of being bullied into silence or called homophobic, hateful or biased.”

Mr Weeks also criticised Commissioner of Police Stephen Corbishley, who said he and the Bermuda Police Service would support the parade.

He asked: “What message is he sending to the many who oppose same-sex marriage by throwing his support to this event?

“Should it not be a neutral stance by the Commissioner of Police like the rest of the civil servants are asked to do on a daily basis?”

Derrick Burgess, a Progressive Labour Party MP and Deputy Speaker, backed Mr Weeks.

Mr Burgess said: “The commissioner, who is here on contract, shouldn’t be making the statements he made.

“He’s here for law and order. If he’s got those persuasions, I don’t have a problem with that there, but he should be neutral.

“He never took a position and said he was going to come out and support the Labour Day march. He’s never supported the Heritage Day march, but he can come out and make a statement about this march, right?”

He also criticised TV station ZBM for its decision to air footage of men kissing in their coverage of the parade story.

Mr Burgess said: “Some families watch TV as a family. Children there. What message are you sending to our children?

“My job as a male, as a parent, as a grandparent is to protect my children. When they get of age, whatever choice they make is on them. They are just shovelling it down people’s throats.”

Mr Corbishley said yesterday that he stood by his support of the parade.

He said: “As articulated in my comments within The Royal Gazette article on June 25, 2019, the BPS will be supporting Bermuda’s Pride Parade, as we represent all communities in Bermuda.

“We are there to protect people, but also we are there to build confidence and trust.”