LGBTQ lobby group OUTBermuda is looking on the bright side in the wake of the final approval of the Domestic Partnership Act.
In a statement reacting to the development, the group recognises that the DPA satisfies international human rights requirements and highlights progress made for the LGBTQ community since sexual orientation discrimination was outlawed in 2012.
While rolling back full marriage equality is regressive, it would be a mistake to view it as a measure of a lack of progress on LGBTQ issues on the Island. To the contrary, much has happened in recent years for Bermuda’s LGBTQ community to celebrate, which makes OUTBermuda believe that there continues to be forward momentum here in Bermuda.
Immigration legislation has been changed to allow immigration rights for non-Bermudian same-sex partners of Bermudians. Immigration policy has been changed to allow work-permit holders the ability to bring their same-sex partners to Bermuda. Adoption legislation has changed, and now permits gays and lesbians to adopt as couples, whether married or not,” the statement continues.
OUTBermuda recognizes that our country is on a journey towards greater acceptance of LGBTQ people and families. This is not the first time a legislature has intervened to overturn a court ruling which supports marriage equality. It happened previously in Hawaii and in California. We believe lasting change on the issue of marriage equality requires us to work within the broader community to change hearts and minds, to reverse the perception that marriage equality is somehow detrimental to our Island. This can and will be done.
We are encouraged by expressions of support both locally and internationally for Bermuda’s lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, trans and queer people, and extend our tremendous gratitude on behalf of the community here. Marriage equality is a goal, but it is not the only goal. We encourage our allies to reach out as we continue to promote and support the well-being, health, dignity, security, safety and protection of the LGBTQ community in Bermuda.
While we are disappointed; we are not powerless.
International human rights law requires some form of legal recognition of same sex relationships but Bermuda has been divided over whether that should take the form of marriage or civil unions – with many of the view that same sex couples should not have any form of legal recognition regardless.
The matter appeared to be settled in May 2017 when the Supreme Court ruled that the Marriage Act unlawfully discriminated against same sex couples on the ground of their sexual orientation by excluding them from marriage.
(Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons ruled then that the Registrar General unlawfully discriminated against Bermudian Winston Godwin and his fiance Greg DeRoche when he denied them a marriage licence and declared that same sex couples are entitled to be married under the Marriage Act.)
But parliament did not introduce legislation giving same sex married couples equivalent rights to opposite sex married couples. And two months after the Supreme Court judgement, lawmakers agreed to a proposal by PLP MP Wayne Furbert to exempt the Marriage Act from the non discrimination provisions of the Human Rights Act – ensuring that marriage would be restricted to a man and a woman – but the Senate rejected the measure and sent it back to parliament for reconsideration.
Then came the election. The One Bermuda Alliance was silent on the issue having issued a statement in May acknowledging the Supreme Court ruling. The Progressive Labour Party’s platform promised that its MPs would be allowed a conscience vote on same sex marriage, and that it would bring a bill granting same sex couples similar rights and benefits as married heterosexual couples “save and except for marriage”.
That bill – the Domestic Partnership Act – was passed by the House of Assembly and the Senate in December and approved by Governor John Rankin last week.
Discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation was outlawed by the legislature in 2013. Two Supreme Court judgements in 2015 established that gay couples could adopt children and that partners of gay Bermudians had the same rights to live and work in Bermuda as spouses of Bermudians. Under the DPA, domestic partners would have equivalent rights to married couples – such as inheritance and pension rights upon the decease of a partner.
This article belongs to Politica ! The original article can be found here: Progress has been made on LGBTQ issues – OUTBermuda
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