Groups Call For Human Rights Act Amendment

Resource type: News

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The Centre for Justice in collaboration with Amnesty International Bermuda, the Human Rights Commission,Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda, The Vision Ministry and Two Words and a Comma have produced a booklet calling on the new government to amend the Human Rights Act to include protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The booklet [PDF] was forwarded to Premier Craig Cannonier, and a copy was issued to every MP and Senator. The 68-page booklet contains an array of items including a copy of a draft bill which addresses the amendment they seek, a copy of the Centre for Justice petition with 776 names on it, and various other material on the issue.

It also lists supporting statements from people including Premier Craig Cannonier [OBA], Minister Shawn Crockwell [OBA], MP Walton Brown [PLP], MP Michael Scott [PLP], former Opposition Leader Kim Swan [UBP], former Minister Wayne Perinchief [PLP], former Premier Sir John Swan [UBP], former MP Charlie Swan [UBP], former Premier Paula Cox [PLP], former Opposition Leader John Barritt [OBA], former Minister Renee Webb [PLP] and lawyer Shade Subair.

The island’s religious community is also represented, with statements from Catholic Bishop Robert Kurtz; former Anglican Bishop Dr Patrick White; and Wesley, Ebenezer and Emmanuel Methodist Churches. Dr White is quoted as saying, “Protection for homosexuals needs to be clearly stated” back in 2008.

The debate over adding the amendment to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation has been going on for several years. In 2006, Renee Webb brought before the House of Assembly a Private Members Bill to add sexual orientation as a protected grounds of discrimination under the Human Rights Act. The bill did not pass.

In the last Throne Speech in November 2012, the Governor said Bermuda’s Human Rights Act 1981 “no longer meets the standard for human rights in a 21st Century democracy,” and said Government proposes to introduce a “new broadly based Bill” that will address protection against discrimination based on age and sexual orientation.”

That Speech from the Throne was held under the old Progressive Labour Party administration, and the Governor will deliver the Throne Speech for the new One Bermuda Alliance administration tomorrow.

The  Throne Speech outlines the Government’s planned programmes and legislation for the ensuing Parliamentary year, and if the new Government plans to make any changes to this law in that timeframe, it is likely to be mentioned tomorrow.

The topic has been headlining the international press lately, with Britain’s parliament recently voting heavily in favour of legalizing gay marriage and President Barack Obama recently becoming the first U.S. President to address gay rights during an inauguration speech.

“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law,”President Obama said. He also mentioned the gay rights Stonewall Riots of the 1960s in the same breath as the Selma civil rights marches.

 The Centre for Justice is an Atlantic grantee through a re-grant from The Centre on Philanthropy.