Human rights activists in Bermuda have launched a campaign to add sexual orientation as a protected grounds of discrimination under the country’s Human Rights Act.

They want to insert an amendment to the Act, which advocates say amounts to not much more than two words and a comma.

A group describing themselves as ‘concerned citizens’ has now launched Two Words and a Comma, a campaign to include sexual orientation in the legislation.

In May 2006 MP Renee Webb brought a private member’s bill before the House of Assembly. Her fellow MPs greeted it with silence and it was not debated, sparking protests and heated discussion among Bermudans.

The cancellation of a visit to the island by a gay family cruise has ensured that gay issues have remained at the top of the news agenda in the small British overseas territory of just 66,000 people.

The cruise organisers were put off the island by the threats of church groups to picket their arrival. Many other Bermudans were horrified that their country was being painted as homophobic, and Anglican and Catholic churches distanced themselves from the evangelical churches.

The Premier of Bermuda said gay people are welcome on the island. The cruise, hosted by lesbian comedian Rosie O’Donnell, was the focus of faith-based protests when it visited the Bahamas in 2004.

“Bermuda is a democracy that welcomes all people of all races, colours, creeds, and sexual orientation,” Premier Ewart Brown said in a statement.

“While the government of Bermuda has done everything we can to welcome the Rosie O’Donnell-hosted cruise, we understand and respect their decision, however saddened we are by it.

“We stress to the international community the Bermudian government’s position of inclusion and acceptance of all who wish to visit our beautiful and friendly country.”

The ship was scheduled to stop at the island after departing from New York on July 7th.

In October, United by Faith (representing 70% of Bermuda’s churches) held a national service on the direction of the country with the human rights amendment at the top of their agenda.

Anglican Bishop the Rt. Rev. Ewan Ratteray said: “Part of the agenda for this service seems to be to target particular members of our society, homosexuals, in a way that is deemed to be inappropriate.”

Last year an editorial in the country’s leading newspaper, the Royal Gazette,

supported a change to the Human Rights Act:

“Either we are all equal before the law or the law can be manipulated to deem that certain groups are, in effect, not human – not worthy of the rights the rest of us enjoy,” it read.

“If we decide homosexuals aren’t human today, who do we go on to dehumanise tomorrow?”

The Human Rights Commission entered the discussion to dispel the myth that sexual orientation was already covered under the act.

In November, during a series of events celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Human Rights Act, an open-topic forum was completely dominated by the issue of sexual orientation.

Bermuda’s gay community attended in force and gave testimony to the realities of their daily lives in the country.

Protection against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation was first considered when the Human Rights Act was formulated in 1981.

The debate raged again following the controversial Stubbs Bill in 1994, which decriminalised homosexuality in Bermuda.

Since then groups such as the Rainbow Coalition and the Human Rights Alliance have advocated for issues which affect the gay community.

Two words and a comma to enshrine gay rights

Human rights activists in Bermuda have launched a campaign to add sexual orientation as a protected grounds of discrimination under the country’s Human Rights Act.

They want to insert an amendment to the Act, which advocates say amounts to not much more than two words and a comma.

A group describing themselves as ‘concerned citizens’ has now launched Two Words and a Comma, a campaign to include sexual orientation as a protected grounds under the Human Rights Act.

In May 2006 MP Renee Webb brought a private member’s bill before the House of Assembly. Her fellow MPs greeted it with silence and it was not debated, sparking protests and heated discussion among Bermudans.

The cancellation of a visit to the island by a gay family cruise has ensured that gay issues have remained at the top of the news agenda in the small British overseas territory of just 66,000 people.

The cruise organisers were put off the island by the threats of church groups to picket their arrival.

Many other Bermudans were horrified that their country was being painted as homophobic, and Anglican and Catholic churches distanced themselves from the evangelical churches.

The Premier of Bermuda said gay people are welcome on the island. The cruise, hosted by lesbian comedian Rosie O’Donnell, was the focus of faith-based protests when it visited the Bahamas in 2004.

“Bermuda is a democracy that welcomes all people of all races, colours, creeds, and sexual orientation,” Premier Ewart Brown said in a statement.

“While the government of Bermuda has done everything we can to welcome the Rosie O’Donnell-hosted cruise, we understand and respect their decision, however saddened we are by it.

“We stress to the international community the Bermudian government’s position of inclusion and acceptance of all who wish to visit our beautiful and friendly country.”

The ship was scheduled to stop at the island after departing from New York on July 7th.

In October, United by Faith (representing 70% of Bermuda’s churches) held a national service on the direction of the country with the human rights amendment at the top of their agenda.

Anglican Bishop the Rt. Rev. Ewan Ratteray said: “Part of the agenda for this service seems to be to target particular members of our society, homosexuals, in a way that is deemed to be inappropriate.”

Last year an editorial in the country’s leading newspaper, the Royal Gazette, supported a change to the Human Rights Act:

“Either we are all equal before the law or the law can be manipulated to deem that certain groups are, in effect, not human – not worthy of the rights the rest of us enjoy,” it read.

“If we decide homosexuals aren’t human today, who do we go on to dehumanise tomorrow?”

The Human Rights Commission entered the discussion to dispel the myth that sexual orientation was already covered under the act.

In November, during a series of events celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Human Rights Act, an open-topic forum was completely dominated by the issue of sexual orientation.

Bermuda’s gay community attended in force and gave testimony to the realities of their daily lives in the country.

Protection against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation was first considered when the Human Rights Act was formulated in 1981.

The debate raged again following the controversial Stubbs Bill in 1994, which decriminalised homosexuality in Bermuda.

Since then groups such as the Rainbow Coalition and the Human Rights Alliance have advocated for issues which affect the gay community.

Bermuda is one of fourteen British Overseas Territories, which are under the sovereignty of the United Kingdom, but not considered part of the UK itself.

For more information or to support the campaign click here