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Bermuda: Gov’t and opposition support protections for gays

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI – Bermuda's government and opposition MPs are throwing their support behind a motion brought by Families Minister Glenn Blakeney to reform current legislation to end discrimination against gays.

The Royal Gazette Online reports that Blakeney, who brought his Equality
Act motion forward July 13, ruled out government support of same-sex marriage.  

"This Government does not condone injustice and discrimination in race, gender, religious beliefs, place of origin, age, or because of a person's sexual orientation," Blakeney told the island's House of Assembly. However, he added, the government is "sensitive to the fact that in Bermuda, there is a significant faith-based community who, on the one hand, because of religious beliefs is not likely to favour a marriage tradition that includes same-sex marriage but who, at the same time, understand that discrimination against persons of same-sex orientation in employment, accommodation, and goods and services is unacceptable."

Blakeney also said it's "not a quick fix." 

"We understand the traditions, we understand all of the challenges within our society, and it's been a level of unreadiness as we would know," he added.

But the opposition is urging the government to get on with it, saying recognition of gay rights is past due.

"The position on this side of the House is that we support this legislation, but the views have been gauged for years, and the question is: when will the Government bring forth the appropriate legislation to ensure that we do the right thing," Bermuda Alliance MP Shawn Crockwell said in part of his reply to Blakeney's statement. 

Former MP Renee Webb praised MPs' "more enlightened" stance on ending discrimination but noted that some politicians still alluded to their religious beliefs for guidance on the matter.

"Members and the public need to be reminded that Bermuda is a secular country," she said. "This means all its citizens should be treated equally regardless of religion and does not give preferential treatment for a citizen from a particular religion over other religions.

"The same should be said with respect to sexual orientation; all persons regardless of their sexual orientation should be treated equally under the law," Webb added, saying sexual orientation should be added to the Human Rights Act immediately. 

"There is no further need for research and discussion on this matter," she emphasized.

Webb's attempt to add sexual orientation to the list of protected grounds in the Human Rights Act failed in 2006.


Landing image: royalgazette.com





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