Bermuda to hold referendum on same-sex marriage tomorrow
Bermuda is set to hold a non-binding public vote on equal marriage tomorrow.
The British Overseas Territory of Bermuda, a collection of small North Atlantic islands, has a population of just 65,000 and maintains autonomy from the UK.
While England, Wales and Scotland have all adopted same-sex marriage, Bermuda will hold a non-binding public vote on the issue on Thursday to decide whether to bring about reforms.
The ballot paper on June 23 will ask voters to answer two questions: ‘Are you in favour of same sex marriage in Bermuda?’ and ‘Are you in favour of same sex civil unions in Bermuda?’
Ahead of the vote, right-wing evangelical groups from the US have focused efforts in Bermuda.
One anti-LGBT group that has popped up bills itself as a “group of concerned citizens in Bermuda”, but appears to have ties with the US-based Alliance Defending Freedom, which extremist watchdog Southern Poverty Law Center notes has a “record of sharp anti-gay bigotry”.
Premier Michael Dunkley told reporters previously he “intends to vote yes for civil unions on June 23”, though did not specify his position on marriage reforms.
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The Bermudan leader said: “I respect people’s opinions but I support human rights and I think it’s very important that people come out and vote yes because I don’t think in the year 2016 we can discriminate against anybody’s rights.
“Whether I support or dislike somebody’s lifestyle, that’s not up for me to judge. But for me, as an individual, it’s to make sure I respect and understand people’s rights and I intend to vote yes for civil unions on June 23.”
Homosexuality was only decriminalised in Bermuda in 1994, but the age of consent has never been equalised – meaning young gay people are still effectively discriminated against by the law.
The Human Rights Campaign reports that “in June 2013, Bermuda banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but the law did not include protections based on gender identity.”
Though Northern Ireland is the only remaining part of the United Kingdom without marriage equality, it is still blocked in the majority of overseas territories.