Posted by: Ms Morris | July 27, 2009

What’s the hold up?

It’s no secret that Bermuda, for the most part is a conservative country. Our laws tend reflect that unless the times call for a change. There is a matter that has needed a change for some time now and there has been no movement from either political party on the matter over the years. The matter being amending the Human Rights Act to include sexual orientation more popularly known as the “Two Words and a Comma” campaign.

It does not sit well with me that we refuse to give human beings rights because of what I can only put up to as religious intolerance and political weakness. (It is not my intention to be inflammatory or disrespectful this is just my opinion) Why is there no movement by the government to change the act?

It’s not like gay folks haven’t been around for ages but still we choose to treat them as less than human. I cannot agree to that. Gays, lesbians, bi-sexuals and transgendered people are at the end of the day human beings. Whether you agree with their lifestyle or not it does not change the fact that they are people and deserve to be protected as such. Anything less, to me, is truly inhumane.


Responses

  1. As a disenfranchised 76-year-old post-operative male-to-female gender-variant Bermudian exile… I very much appreciate your supportive caring commentary above—thank you, Ms Morris…

    Brenda Lana Smith R af D
    Cornwall
    Britain

  2. It is important that our honourable legislators understand in their deliberations that sexual orientation and gender identity are individually separate and distinct entities… that need to be regarded and legislated as such in any amendment to Bermuda’s present omissive Human Rights Law…

    “Stand up for Gender-Variant People’s Rights on Bermuda…” http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=83427199552

  3. I think that our politicians simply lack courage to do the right thing. They are too beholden to whomever might be supporting them. For the PLP, much of that support is from the AME church, and the AME are very conservative on this issue. I would wager the other churches are too.

    The only way the Stubbs Bill was passed was because it was made a conscience vote. If the human rights act was amended to include gay rights (freedom from discrimination), that would require a conscience vote to have any chance too. But I have heard of several fundamentalist types pushing to to repeal even the Stubbs Bill.

    FWIW, at the last drafting of the Human Rights Act, the panel was INSTRUCTED to omit sexual orientation from the list they had drafted. Make of that what you will.

    I personally don’t understand what the hang up is. Who you choose to share your life with is your private choice. Between consenting adults only is OK with me.

  4. Agreed on all counts. Right now both political parties are trying not to inflame the church leadership who admittedly are strongly influential members of the community.

    The morally right thing would be to make the amendment to the Human Rights Act. Let’s try to mature a little more as a country.

  5. This is just one of many laws on our books that need to be done away with. Our community and it’s leaders should engage in “progressive” thinking, and not continue to be held back by archaic laws that make no sense.

  6. Unfortunately it is a simple product of our parliamentary system.

    Parties are elected by the popular majority. On issues like this, too many people are offended and thus neither party wants to risk losing the election based upon the issue.

    Simply we have a case where a minority group are silenced by the majority. The PLP was founded to stand for the opposite but unfortunately, as goes with politics, one they had a taste of power it became too sweet to turn down in the face of what many believe is right. Unfortunately discrimination matters most to those who are being discriminated against. Those who aren’t quickly forget what it is like.

  7. Not knowing Bermuda as well as some of you, is there ‘real’ danger of loosing the election – or is it perceived?

  8. I think only if it is (a) close to an election; or (b) if it is done as a Party decision as opposed to a conscientious vote. In other words, if it is politicised.

  9. Thank you for your kind words Ms Smith. I only wish there was more I could do.

    Martin asks a very good question. I really don’t think that there is a real risk of losing an election over this one issue. This island is so small, I’m sure everyone knows someone who happens to be gay. Whether they are a family member, colleague or someone you knew from school.

    Even though the official position of the AME and Catholic churches may be strongly against homosexuality I think if one looks at the individuals who make up the body of those churches I think one may find some voices of dissent. Not to get into a religious back and forth but I do have trouble reconciling the whole being gay is an abomination thing with the love thy neighbour as thyself.

    I wouldnt mind seeing a conscious vote made. It’s really sad however to see that governance for the people has taken a backseat to the politics of a few…again. The result is that people feel ostracised and many leave. Discrimination based on sexual orientation is not progressive thinking. And that both political parties knowingly and willfully play dumb and turn a blind eye to people’s suffering borders on criminal.

  10. So, basically some of you are saying there are no laws orthey are antiquated with regards to leasbians and gays et al.

    The Constitution still stands and so does the Criminal Code. Maybe a few decent lawyers would help. Then again, murders and rape and ‘Yoogars’ are what it’s all about.

    Where the hell is Saul Froomkin when you need him? Probabley out smoking……….

  11. Am I right in assuming that there is (perhaps) some thinking currently that the Government really needs to address this issue, once and for all?

    Am I also right in saying that the thinking is that legislating is unecessary given the small numbers that are gay? A hammer to crack a nut?

    Let us not forget too, that the HR Act applies only to Bermudians.

  12. I don’t know what other people think whether in government or not but I think it needs to be addressed once and for all.

    As for unecessary, no, I would say legislation is very much needed and long overdue. The fact that there is no amendment means that when discrimination does occur (and it does) there is no legal recourse for homosexuals. They can’t even report it to the HRC becuase there is no law against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. It’s a hopeless cycle.

    Just because people are in a minority doesnt mean their needs should be overlooked. If that was the case blacks never would’ve been freed in the US.

  13. Denmark – ‘There are no gender rights without LGBT rights. There are no ethnic rights without LGBT rights…’ [2009-07-28 CPH Post]

    http://www.denmark.dk/en/servicemenu/news/domesticpoliticalnews/politicianspeaksoutonminorityrights.htm

    Politician speaks out on minority rights

    International conference focuses on minority rights and human rights being equally important

    An international conference on Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender (LGBT) human rights entitled ‘Love of Freedom – Freedom to Love’ has begun in Copenhagen. The three-day event kicked off at DR’s Concert Centre yesterday.

    The conference is coordinated by leading human rights activists from around the world and coincides with the World Outgames taking place in Copenhagen.

    The conference has more than 110 workshops with presenters from about 70 countries worldwide.

    Denmark’s Socialist People’s Party member Kamal Hameed Qureshi took part in the Human Rights Conference panel discussion entitled ‘LGBT party politics: 30 Years after Nancy Wechsler and Harvey Milk: Lessons for the Future.’

    A heterosexual, Qureshi’s presence diversified the panel which comprised gay and lesbian political party members from Austria, Canada, Nepal and Spain.

    Born in Pakistan to Indian parents who moved to Denmark when he was young, Qureshi, spoke about the challenges of growing up in Denmark as a minority and the importance of declaring equal rights for every individual.

    ‘There are no gender rights without LGBT rights. There are no ethnic rights without LGBT rights,’ he said.

    Proclaiming that some of his own party members have called him a bit ‘radical’ in his crusade for equal human rights, Qureshi told The Copenhagen Post he would like to see same-sex marriage in the church made legal.

    ‘Denmark has laws forbidding human rights,’ Qureshi explained citing the fact that same-sex marriages cannot be carried out in the church.

    Same-sex marriages, or civil unions, are legally recognised by the state of Denmark. However, the law dictates that same-sex marriage ceremonies cannot be conducted in a church.

    ‘We need to take the good parts of the existing laws [pertaining to same-sex unions] and combine them with the common law,’ stated Qureshi.

    Hailing from a Muslim background, Qureshi is no stranger to minority issues in Denmark. In 2001, he became the first elected Danish Parliament member from an ethnic background. Since then, he has feverishly campaigned to improve equal rights for minorities in Denmark.

    ‘Neighbouring countries like Sweden are good examples of how we can better our laws concerning equal rights. One thing Denmark needs is an ombudsman who can determine where the laws are lacking in human rights so we don’t have to wait until something like a hate-crime is committed before we act.’

    Qureshi said he has seen growth in the Pakistani community here in Copenhagen, citing his own neighborhood of Nørrebro.

    Qureshi said it has not always been easy for him to find common ground within the Muslim community. He experienced a considerable backlash, particularly from the Pakistani community, when he as the first heterosexual Parliamentarian marched in the Copenhagen Pride Parade.

    ‘My family and I were persecuted because of my stance on human rights. It took some time, but eventually walls came down,’ explained Qureshi, retelling the story of how a sharwama shop owner ran up to him the next year as he marched in the parade and handed him a dürüm. ‘You cannot march on an empty stomach,’ the shop owner had insisted. Qureshi now has an overwhelming majority of support from the Pakistani community.

    In addition to campaigning for LGBT rights, Qureshi also expressed how important it was for members of all minorities to come together and support each other.

    ‘If we can find allies within other minority parties,’ he explained, ‘then we become the majority’.

    American human rights activist Cleve Jones, founder of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt and co-founder of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, was also in Copenhagen to speak at the conference. Jones has recently garnered additional fame after being portrayed in the movie ‘Milk’, a biopic on the life of American politician Harvey Milk, who became the first openly gay man elected to public office in the state of California.

    ‘My hope for Denmark and the rest of Europe is that they will give America their full support when we march on Washington, DC on 11 October,’ he told The Copenhagen Post. ‘We’re marching for one thing and one thing only – equal rights now and forever.

    The Copenhagen Post
    Edited July 28, 2009

    © Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark

  14. Europe – Issue Paper: Human Rights and Gender Identity… [2009-07-29 Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights]

    https://wcd.coe.int/ViewDoc.jsp?id=1476365&Site=CommDH&BackColorInternet=FEC65B&BackColorIntranet=FEC65B&BackColorLogged=FFC679

    Council of Europe
    Commissioner for Human Rights
    Mandate 2006-2012, Thomas Hammarberg

    Strasbourg, 29 July 2009

    PDF version
    https://wcd.coe.int/com.instranet.InstraServlet?Index=no&command=com.instranet.CmdBlobGet&InstranetImage=1289401&SecMode=1&DocId=1433126&Usage=2

    Human Rights and Gender Identity
    Issue Paper by Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights

    Table of Contents

    I. Introduction
    II. International Human Rights Law
    III. Specific human rights issues

    3.1 Gender identity as a discrimination ground in Council of Europe member states
    3.2 Legal recognition of the preferred gender
    3.2.1 Conditions for the change of sex and name
    3.2.2 Consequences for family
    3.3 Access to health care
    3.4 Access to the labour market
    3.5 Transphobia and violence against transgender persons
    3.6 Transgender refugees and migrants

    IV. Good practices
    V. Recommendations to Council of Europe member states

    (SNIP)

    END

  15. It would be interesting to get a comment from someone who is against legislating to protect this minority group, but who themselves have been discriminated against (race, sex, disability, etc).

    I wonder how they might rationalise their position?

  16. LOL.

    Martin, you should have noticed by now that rationality is conspicuously absent within the political community. What is very common, however, is hypocrisy.

  17. Indeed.

    On the ‘other’ Education thread, Iwas tempted to say that I have never understood how politicians can say “we have a wonderful system” – yet send their kids to Private.

  18. Why not say it. Most people think it anyway. Just more hypocrisy in action, right?

    Feeling rather cynical this morning.

  19. there is a list of reforms that are needed …its not just about gays…..reform needs to be handled in its big picture view and not on a issue by issue baisis

  20. Indeed right, Ms Morris.

    Sorry about the cynical feeling, but that too will pass. Honest.

  21. Sounds cool, black press…

    Provided that sexual orientation and gender identity are regarded and legislated as individually separate and distinct entities and not swept under the mat in your big picture of needed reforms to Bermuda’s present omissive Human Rights Law…

  22. Brenda, I respect your opinions and your fight for equality. Things take time and somewhere down the road in this short life others things will require the attention of humanity and juris prudence.

    It’s a cycle. I can assure you that if the Uighurs stay in Bermuda ( another topic) and they marry someone, what will be the fate of the offspring. And so another challenge for law makers et al.

    I have a friend who is a CIA agent who’s daughter is 14 and wants to be a man so she can have lots of sex with women. But..when she’s 21 she wants to go back and be a female so she can have children. I was taken aback by this and asked him/her why are you telling me this. They said….”I think she needs help”. Long story short…so do I.

    Point is, if this were possible, then another slew of ledgeslation would be needed to cover from a-b and back to a and on too c.

    It’s a never ending thing. Just like everything else. One thing one day, another the next.

    I was at the airport last night awaiting a flight for my wife too ….( can’t say it)…and wanted a beer and she a coke. The barmaid asked me for my ID. I walked away and went to another area and ordered a beer and a coke and they asked for ID. So I pulled it out and gave it too them and got my stuff.

    Lawmakers make sum pretty dum shit all because of one complaint or whatever and it varies from state too state. And, it makes big bucks for the lawyers and the Government proponants.

    Long story short re above. Booze sales are way down but burger sales are up.

    Rant over.

    Have a great Cup Match wherever you are. Cup a tea, cup a rum, cup a coffee, cup a matches…..close cover before striking…….

    I think I went off topic….but what the hell………:+)

  23. Ms Morris, your last paragraph speaks volumes.
    I say, free the white man in Bermuda.

    We also have “needs”.

  24. “One of the measures of our society is how we respond to the differences among us.

    “This is one of those times…”

    — 2009-08-04 Denver Post editorial

  25. Britain – Foreign Affairs committee stands up for gay rights in the Cayman Islands… [2009-08-09 I spy strangers]

    http://ispystrangers.wordpress.com/2009/08/09/foreign-affairs-committee-stands-up-for-gay-rights-in-the-cayman-islands/

    Foreign Affairs committee stands up for gay rights in the Cayman Islands

    August 09, 2009

    by Tony Grew

    A committee of MPs has said it is “deplorable” that the Cayman Islands draft constitution excludes sexual orientation as a prohibited ground for discrimination.

    “The possibility cannot be ruled out that the drafting of the constitution in this regard may result in Cayman Islands courts affording to citizens of those islands less than the full protection which they are entitled to under the European Convention on Human Rights,” according to a report from the Foreign Affairs committee.

    They recommend that in all future discussions with Overseas Territories about revisions to their constitutions, the Foreign Office insists that no specific religion or faith community be singled out for privileged mention, and that anti-discrimination provisions make explicit mention of sexual orientation.

    Located south of Cuba and northwest of Jamaica, the Cayman Islands have a population of 52,000.

    It is one of 14 British overseas territories that are under British sovereignty but which do not form part of the UK.

    The UK is responsible under international law for ensuring that its Overseas Territories meet their obligations arising from international human rights conventions which have been extended to them.

    The FCO has submitted in draft form two proposed new constitutions for Overseas Territories: for the Cayman Islands, and for St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.

    Both draft constitutions contained references in their preambles to the Christian religion.

    The preamble to the Cayman Islands draft constitution referred to that Territory as being “a God-fearing country based on traditional Christian values, tolerant of other religions and beliefs”.

    There were also reference to “Christian values” in the main text of the draft.

    The preamble to the St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha draft constitution refers to those islands “wishing to continue as communities of tolerance, with respect for government and the law, Christian and family values and protection of the environment”.

    The Cayman Islands draft constitution does not explicitly mention sexual orientation as a prohibited ground for discrimination.

    In addition, there is an exemption for any claim of discrimination on grounds of, inter alia, “public morality”.

    The St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha draft constitution does explicitly mention sexual orientation as a prohibited ground for discrimination, and it does not contain a “public morality” qualification.

    The committee said:

    “In correspondence with the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary responsible for the Overseas Territories, Gillian Merron MP, and with her successor in the post after the June 2009 reshuffle, Chris Bryant MP, we expressed our concern at the possible effect of these provisions.

    “We are not persuaded by the Ministerial responses we received.

    “We note that from those responses it is clear that the references to Christian values were inserted in the drafts at the behest of the Islanders themselves, whilst the FCO in turn insisted on adding the references to “tolerance” with which they are bracketed.

    “It is also clear that it was at the behest of the Islanders that explicit reference to sexual orientation was dropped from the Cayman Islands draft constitution.

    “The FCO argues that the list of grounds for discrimination is open-ended and thus does not exclude sexual orientation.

    “However, the case-law on European Convention on Human Rights Article 14 is clear that sexual orientation is a “status” and that differential treatment on that basis requires particularly weighty justification.

    “In our view, the references to Christian values throughout the draft constitution, in conjunction with the public morality qualification on the non-discrimination provision, must give rise to a risk that Cayman Islands courts will not necessarily follow the Strasbourg Article 14 case-law in the apparent absence of anything in the constitution which requires them to do so.”

    END

  26. the only way to effect any changes here is for all people who want various reforms to governance, to come togeather under a singular banner of sweeping reforms…otherwise they…the eliete conservative and far right administration will always use the excuse that individual causes do not have the “proper numbers” displaying public support, for that particular change

  27. Well, this could be interesting.

    So, the UK might say to Bermuda, you have to come in line and ammend the HR Act.

    No doubt there would be much huffing and puffing about the UK interferring with how Bermuda is run…but…it would be a neat way out of the dilemma for the Government.

    Wait and see I suppose.

  28. the uk needs to step in and reform more than the hr act here

  29. Martin you’re right on—again…

    Based on knowledge gleaned or imparted since I approached the British government on Wednesday, 2006-06-14 requesting that pressure be immediately brought to bear on the Government of Bermuda to honorably comply with its obligation under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) vis-a-vis the present lack of human rights afforded transsexual persons under Bermuda jurisdiction… such a political savvy and lawyerly pragmatic resolution has reluctantly long been afoot…

    As for your pessimistic “wait and see” supposition or Ms Morris’ original and succinct commentary: “What’s the hold up?”

    Me thinks Bermuda’s legislators and lawyerly elite are probably bogged down in coming up with equally pragmatic resolutions to the like of constitutional reforms that black press holds dear to heart and has pontificated on a thread distinctly calling for favorable amendments to Bermuda’s present LGBT omissive Human Rights Act…

  30. I suspect there is some empathy to change, in the current Government. Maybe they are holding off for some quid pro quo.

    The gamble might be whether they would loose some support at the polls, from the churches. Not sure how likely that is, but who knows.

    Of course, if Ewart could turn any ‘UK intervention’ into a rallying call for Independence, then I am confident he would do so. Logical.

    Any possible diminution of the church vote might be sacrificed for the bigger game prize.

  31. From perhaps the unlikeliest of quarters, Rev Al Sharpton voice his concerns about homophobia and blacks.

    http://www.nysun.com/new-york/sharpton-pledges-fight-against-homophobia-among/17991/

  32. hi thanks for share,i always came to visit ur Blog:)

  33. As Britain is presently in the long-drawn-out process of clobbering together a new Equality Bill that in addition to LGBT interests covers disability, women, race and much more that probably equally falls under the umbrella of black press’ call for sweeping constitutional reforms on Bermuda… I now think that in all probability that while Bermuda’s lawyerly elite and savvy legislators are working in tandem with their British counterparts that they are wisely awaiting the enshrinement of the resultant Equality Act in British law, before presenting a much needed dove-tailing Bermudianized Equality Bill before parliament…

  34. Britain – Equality Bill: Key amendments and progress through Parliament—2009-07-07… [2009-08-17 Addleshaw Goddard]

    http://www.addleshawgoddard.com/view.asp?content_id=4676&parent_id=4675

    Equality Bill: Key amendments and progress through Parliament

    The Equality Bill has been left relatively intact following scrutiny by the Commons Public Bill Committee. The Committee stage ended on 7 July 2009. From the numerous amendments that were proposed, only a handful have made it into to the Bill. The Bill now progresses to Report stage before heading to the House of Lords. The Bill is still on track to receive Royal Assent in Spring 2010 and become law in October 2010.

    The key amendments are:

    • The inclusion of a new “dual discrimination” clause to allow people directly discriminated against because of a combination of two protected characteristics to make a claim.  This would enable, for example, a black woman who is discriminated against because her employer has a particular stereotyped attitude towards black women (as opposed to white women or black men) to bring a single claim for combined race and sex discrimination.   Under the law as it stands, this claimant would have to bring separate claims of race and sex discrimination which may not succeed if the discrimination is because of the combination of characteristics, rather than because of race or sex alone.   This new provision only applies to claims for direct discrimination, and can only be brought in relation to a  combination of 2 (and no more) of the following protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.  Pregnancy and maternity, and marital status and civil partnership are excluded from this protection.

    • A change to the pregnancy and maternity provisions to make clear that treating a woman unfavourably because of pregnancy or maternity – either at work or as a service user – is unlawful and cannot be justified.  The original draft of the Bill said that discrimination on these grounds would only be unlawful where the woman was treated less favourably “than is reasonable”.  This caused consternation in many quarters as it significantly diluted the existing law which is not what was intended.  The Bill now says that any “unfavourable” treatment because of pregnancy or maternity leave will be unlawful.

    The definition of direct discrimination has not been amended, so this stays as less favourable treatment “because of a protected characteristic” (replacing the current “on the grounds of” wording).  Whilst the government believes that this new wording will make the law more accessible, there is concern that introducing a new definition will create uncertainty.  The Commons Committee narrowly decided in favour of retaining it.

    Neither has there been any amendment to the definition of the new form of disability discrimination, “discrimination arising from a disability”, which is widely thought to be deficient.  Amendments are, however, expected at Report stage.

    The Bill will now go to the Report stage in the House of Commons, when all MPs will be given the opportunity to debate and propose further amendments.

    As it stands, the Bill is still on track to receive Royal Assent in Spring 2010 and the majority of the Bill should become law in October 2010, subject to its progress through Parliament.

    Equality Bill as amended in Public Bill Committee:

    Click to access equality-bill.pdf

    © 2009 Addleshaw Goddard LLP, all rights reserved


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