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Donors backing gay marriage speak out

The Privy Council of the United Kingdom (File photograph)

Two Bermudians have put up funds to pay for an expensive legal battle to stop the outlawing of same-sex marriage on the island.

The private citizens, neither gay, spoke to The Royal Gazette on condition of anonymity as the Privy Council in London prepared to hear the case this week.

One of the donors said: “For a long time now, I have helped to fund the legal fees.

“I simply find it unthinkable that one could blithely live in a community, be a citizen, be part of a society that wilfully seeks to make a minority group feel that they are less than, that they are inferior …”

He added: “I find it absolutely abhorrent in Bermuda, with its legacy of slavery and the racism that followed.

“I’m bewildered that this doesn’t resonate with the powers-that-be but I understand that venal self-interest will often triumph.”

The man said he had voted for the Progressive Labour Party over the years but was streets apart on same-sex marriage.

He claimed it was clear the Cabinet had continued the case, at significant cost to the taxpayer, for political gain.

The man said: “The one thing that all of the people in the Government care about is getting re-elected.

“Any other consideration is a distant second for them.”

The proceedings were brought by the Government against LGBT rights charity OutBermuda and other litigants in a bid to overturn a 2018 Court of Appeal ruling which allowed same-sex weddings to go ahead.

Both sides have hired top-rated and expensive barristers to argue before the panel of judges and the legal bill will run into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Government will have to pay the costs for both sides if it loses.

It is understood that about 40 per cent of OutBermuda’s legal costs have been paid by the two Bermudian donors.

Carnival Cruise Line has contributed about 40 per cent and the remaining 20 per cent came from donations from the public.

Carnival ships are registered in Bermuda and offered same-sex weddings aboard vessels after an earlier court judgment, in May 2017, allowed gay marriage.

The company said in 2018 it supported marriage equality and had backed OutBermuda because it was “important to stand by the LGBTQ community in Bermuda and its many allies to oppose any actions that restrict travel and tourism”.

The other private donor said their philosophy was “you have to treat people equally. It’s just doing the right thing.”

The donor compared the attempt to ban gay marriage to laws in the United States which once blocked interracial marriage – but which were overturned more than 50 years ago.

The donor said: “You have got people who just need to be given the basic human right that we all should have.

“You can’t help who you love and, to me, you should not be penalised for that reason.”

The first donor added: “My principal reason for donating is I choose not to live in a country that discriminates against other people because they are different to me.”

He said: “I find it embarrassing. It’s just unworthy. I prefer for people to live and let live.

“I don’t have a dog in this fight. I won’t personally benefit from this, other than … our society will be more accepting, more diverse and more just.”

Zakiya Johnson Lord, a senior figure in OutBermuda, said: “We cannot overstate our gratitude for the support that has been shown to us over the past three years.

“Even before we saw larger scale support, it was the early financial commitment that buoyed our resolve and allowed us to engage with other like-minded individuals and move this case forward.”

She added: “Our donors trusted that the persons most impacted by an issue are best in the position to tackle it.

“This support from our donors has allowed OutBermuda to stay in this fight, and to keep our heads up in the process.”

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Published February 02, 2021 at 8:18 am (Updated February 02, 2021 at 8:18 am)

Donors backing gay marriage speak out

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