It was inevitable that our political leaders were going to be asked to take a position on the issue that is dominating the US political scene, namely gay marriage. I come down squarely in favour of marrying same sex partners. They are entitled to all the rights and benefits that any other couple are and should be protected by law, not discriminated against.
I've been waiting for this to hit Bermuda and unfortunately the first politician to comment was predictably discriminatory in her comments. One of the things that continually disappoints me in Bermuda is the homophobia and downright bigotry around homosexuality. Phil Wells points out that this is an issue of equality, human rights at it's most basic. You'll find that both sides of the political divide in Bermuda will almost unanimously oppose this, primarily due to a strong church influence.
It's immoral people will say (Ms. Minors for one) - so we should discriminate. I'm sure Ms. Minors would have opposed laws prohibiting interracial marriages, and lots of people think that's immoral. The same people who will rant about the immorality of homosexuality are multiple divorcees or one of the many Bermudian parents of children out of wedlock. Bermuda is rampant with immorality, let's not be so hypocritical and sanctimonious when it comes to homosexuality.
The most obvious response to this argument has almost always been that it is the first justification used by someone who wants to discriminate, and Ms. Minors is no exception. More worringly, Governments have no place legislating morality as Ms. Minors feels entitled to do when she states that "In my opinion, I do not believe it to be representative of a family based on moral values". (I can't help but point out that Ms. Minors must feel uncomfortable then as a member of a parliamentary group comprised of a large number of homosexuals, some of whom have children and live-in partners).
The black churches in Bermuda have tolerated this aspect of the PLP as long as it wasn't pushed on them, but that's a big reason for the split which grew in the PLP since 1998 (but has been taboo to the press). Some in the PLP resented the control of the Government by a) a woman and b) a homosexual clique. Any move to liberalise Bermuda's laws around homosexuality would be sure to receive a swift response from the churches.
So, if the PLP are not open to treating gays and lesbians with equality in Bermuda what does that say about the PLP's claim to be a modern day civil rights movement? Well it exposes it as the sham that it is. Many in the PLP who pat themselves on the back are more than happy to violate the principles of equality and human rights when it comes to sexual orientation.
The UBP will almost certainly have a large number of MPs against gay marriage as they did in with the Stubbs bill. In that instance a motion from the backbench pushed through legislation to remove this discrimination in 1994, to much controversy. It was a fundamental issue of human rights (not to mention affected the son of Dr. Stubbs, the mover of the bill) and was the right thing to do. This issue is no different.
I recall reading somewhere that Bermuda has one of the highest incidences of children born out of wedlock! I'm yet to hear our politicians crying about the immorality of that (it would turn off lots of potential voters). We're very selective with our application of morality, as Bermudians are notorious for nothing if not infidelity.
Bermuda is sadly in the dark ages when it comes to tolerance, particularly around sexual orientation. We have a long way to go.
(As a side note: I became interested in Bermudian politics after the embarrassing public outcry when homosexuality (banned strangely only for men) was finally legalised in 1994. I was embarrassed to sit in the public gallery of Parliament and watch people wave their bibles (literally) shouting pure hate during the debate of the legalisation to legalise consensual sex between adult men. It's the only time I've ever seen the gallery of the House full, standing room only! I was stunned and felt the need to get involved).
This post has been corrected.
CORRECTION: Politics.bm incorrectly inferred that the UBP as a party moved the motion to decriminalise sexual intercourse between men. The motion was from the backbench and did not have Cabinet support. Politics.bm apologises for the error.