12 DEC 2017: In May, same sex couples in Bermuda won the right to marry. That lasted a short six months and has now been overturned as Parliament has passed the Domestic Partnership Act 2017, which replaces same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships that can be entered into by (applause here for forward thinking) both gay and heterosexual couples.

The decision came in the same Parliamentary sitting in which a Bill to decriminalize possession of small amounts of cannabis was passed with the support of the government and opposition sides. That law, unlike the other, permits both homosexuals and heterosexuals the same rights.

Back in May, Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons ruled that the Registrar-General could not reject an application by Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche to marry in Bermuda, and that the common law definition of marriage as between a man and a woman was "inconsistent with the provisions of the Human Rights Act as they constitute deliberate different treatment on the basis of sexual orientation".

Politicians however, always know better, and after five hours of debate, 24 MPs voted in favour of the legislation and 10 voted against.

Home Affairs Minister Walton Brown said the legislation would provide same-sex couples with a number of legal rights but prevent any further same-sex marriages.

"We need to find a way in Bermuda to fully embrace greater rights for all members of the community," Brown said somehow neglecting to recall the fact that he had just stripped a large number of the community of their rights.

"But the status quo will not stand. On the ground, the political reality is that if we do not lead we would have a Private Members Bill tabled to outlaw same-sex marriage. That Bill would pass because more than 18 MPs are opposed to same sex marriage. If that Bill passes same sex couples have no rights whatsoever. This is tough for me. But I don't shy away from tough decisions."

Nor does it seem, he shies away from unadulterated BS.

Then there was Lawrence Scott who told the Bermuda Assembly, "As it stands now, they (LGBT couples) can have the name "marriage" but without the benefits. "But after this bill passes, they have the benefits and just not the name marriage. The benefits are what they really want."

Actually Mr. Scott, you'll likely find that equal rights as citizens are what they 'really want'.

Among those who opposed the Bill were the Shadow Minister of National Security, Jeff Baron, who said it was a "very flawed and, frankly, shameful Bill", and Opposition leader Jeanne Atherden who said the Parliament was taking away rights that had been granted to communities of individuals who want to start families.

The Centre for Justice said it was disappointed that the Government chose to roll back full marital equality.

"That said, we were encouraged by a floor amendment giving recognition to all same sex marriages that have taken outside Bermuda prior to the commencement of the Domestic Partnership Act, a recommendation that Centre for Justice and the Human Rights Commission had proposed to Minister Brown during consultation. It was also encouraging to hear the change of tone in discourse in many speeches given on Friday night," the centre said in a statement.

"Several MPs acknowledged that this issue highlights a generational gap and philosophical difference between parents and their young adult children whose worldview is more inclusive and progressive. Several MPs recognize and acknowledged that this marital equality will not end with this Bill. Hopefully, Bermuda will get there sooner than later."

The year is 2017. This is a 'generation gap' that should have long since been erased in Bermuda, as it has in many parts of the world. And really, 'Sooner rather than later' doesn't begin to be enough - especially when you were already there.

If Bermuda's legislators could not vote on equal rights for all its citizens, because it is the right thing to do, surely it must realize the commercial aspects of its decision. The LGBT community is growing ever more discerning as to where it spends its disposable income and Bermuda is a country heavily dependent on tourist dollars.

Meantime, the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill to decriminalize possession of less than seven grams of cannabis was also passed in the House of Assembly. No generation gap here.

While possession of that quantity of the drug will not lead to sanctions, police will still be able to seize any amount of cannabis. There will also be regulations for substance abuse education or treatment for those caught with the drug.



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Jen Savedra

Jen Savedra is the founder and editor in chief of Travel Industry Today with  a long career and considerable experience in various sectors of travel and tourism. She is dedicated to producing a publication that differentiates itself from the pack. One that pulls no punches, and - along with being a forum for news and ideas - is easy to navigate and always fun to read.

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