Bermudan premier heeds pro-family coalition’s call for vote on same-sex ‘marriage’
BERMUDA, March 9, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Bermuda's Premier Michael Dunkley has announced plans to let all Bermudans vote on whether homosexuals should be included in the country's definition of marriage, in response to a strong pro-marriage lobby from a church-led coalition on the one hand and a court decision that same-sex couples must be treated the same as heterosexual ones on the other.
A homosexual rights lawyer wasted no time in declaring that any law passed in response to a Christian lobby group might be automatically unconstitutional.
Dunkley announced that the government would hold the non-binding referendum "in order to get the widest possible reach of views from the people."
In the same statement, he said, "As a final and important point, this Government is of the view that marriage is a union between a man and a woman."
The referendum announcement is the latest development in the same-sex issue, sparked by the landmark 2015 Supreme Court decision in the Bermuda Bred case, declaring that foreign homosexual partners of Bermudans have the same residential and employment rights as foreign heterosexual partners.
Caught between a judicial rock and a hard place occupied by its own conservative supporters, the government responded this month by tabling two bills, one recognizing marriage as heterosexual only and the second recognizing homosexual civil unions as being the legal equivalent of marriage.
The Preserve Marriage Bermuda group, led by several prominent Protestant church pastors, assembled a multiracial group of about 70 lay persons and clergy to call for not only a referendum on the issue, but also a legislative declaration that the definition of marriage as a heterosexual union alone is not a violation of the Human Rights Act.
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The group also criticized the government's bill recognizing homosexual civil unions. According to the Royal Gazette, spokesman Ray Madeiros said, "The public must be fully informed that in almost every country that has redefined marriage, civil unions were introduced in answer to this alleged discrimination[.] … Governments that introduce civil unions by default start the countdown to same-sex marriage."
The group contended that marriage is "an upward benefit to society as a whole," which is why the Bermuda government should legislate the matter. It justified the referendum as a way to counter the actions of elite groups such as judges and politicians overruling the people. "We want to decide that the few do not decide for the many," said Pastor Gary Simons of Cornerstone Bible Fellowship."
But human rights lawyer Tom Marshall followed up on the government's referendum vow by arguing that any law based on the religious belief that "being gay is unnatural and the work of the devil" violates the Bermudan Constitution's guarantee of freedom of conscience by imposing an "archaic" religious morality on all Bermudans. "If the underpinning of the laws is to give effect to a dominant religious view then there is a very good argument that the laws offend Section 8 of the Constitution," said Marshall.
Marshall's opinion drew several hostile comments on the Royal Gazette's website. Typical was Daylily's: "To deny Bermudians the right to be included in the democratic process because you don't like how they arrive at their opinions or beliefs is to deny them the very same human rights you are purporting to protect…So, are we a democracy or not?"