Photos by Chris Gibbons
I’m not sure what it says about Bermuda in 2013 that a National Day of Prayer, at which some clergy chose to openly advocate continued discrimination against gays, drew far more people to City Hall yesterday than the 100 or so who turned out at the House of Assembly today to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia and the tabling of a bill to amend Bermuda’s Human Rights Act to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Does it mean that Bermudians place more stock in religious dogma than human rights? That their unfounded fear and ignorance prevents them from recognising that discrimination and injustice in any form is to be opposed? I hope it means that many Bermudians – and not a few clergy and churchgoers, I would wager – privately agree with the amendment but for whatever reason don’t wish to be seen publicly supporting it. Either that or they couldn’t justify two consecutive days out of the office.
It was disturbing to hear hysterical rhetoric such as that by Bishop Lloyd Duncan of the New Testament Church of God who declared: “I now implore our newly elected Government to exercise Biblical caution and spiritual restraint as you seek to approve what God’s word does not endorse, and as you seek to legislate what heaven has deemed inadmissible from the inception of time.” He said the amendment would be “a critical error and what can only be termed a lethal mistake”.
Or this statement, from the AME Church warning the Government “legislation that endorses homosexuality violates God’s Word” and said that all people are made in God’s image, including those “affected by same sex attraction”.
They are entitled to their view but are missing the point. No one is demanding that they support gay marriage or condone homosexuality. What they are not entitled to do is to actively support an encourage discrimination against a section of the community. Their claims that gays can be “cured” by prayer belong in the same category of ignorance as those who still believe the earth is flat. A gay person can no more change than a white man can become black. In the words of the wonderful Macklemore & Lewis song Same Love: “I couldn’t change even if I tried/Even if I wanted to.” (By the way it was encouraging to hear The Captain play that track on the Mix 106 drive-in this morning to mark the day).
As Phil Wells posted on Facebook today: “Someone should ask the churches whether they would support the removal of ‘religion or beliefs’ from the Human Rights Act.”
Although consensual homosexual sex was de-criminalised in 1994 (yes, as late as that) it still takes courage to be openly gay in Bermuda. In the same way it took courage for black Bermudians to fight – and continue to fight – against racial discrimination and prejudice it took guts for gay Bermudians (supported by Amnesty International, Centre for Justice, Rainbow Alliance, Two Words and a Comma and the Vision Ministry) to publicly stand up and be counted at the House of Assembly today.
Now lets hope that our MPs have the sense to give the religious bigots short shrift and add those two simple two words and a comma to the Human Rights Act.