FRIDAY, AUGUST 17: More than 100 people today came out in support of equal rights for gay people.
The Speak Out event – organised by the newly-formed Rainbow Alliance – was designed to put pressure on Government to extend human rights protection to the island’s gay community.
Organiser Caitlin O’Doherty said: “I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of people who have come out from the queer community and other people who have just come out to support us.”
Jason Savoury, a 23-year-old math graduate from Devonshire, said: “I’m here because I just think it’s right.
“This is an issue which shouldn’t be an issue. It’s an issue that’s as easy as breathing. Everybody deserves the same rights — anyone who disagrees is just wrong.”
Gay people and supporters queued up to share their stories at the event.
Vision Ministry Pastor Sylvia Hayward-Harris said that the mainstream churches had held back equal rights for gay people, while politicians feared the issue was a vote loser.
She said: “I do not like discrimination in any form — I believe that there has been an unfortunate mix of politics and religion.
“Politicians appear to be afraid of losing votes. But I believe it’s time we gave basic rights to all people.”
One US regular visitor to Bermuda said: “Changing the laws can make a big difference in changing people’s attitudes — Don’t let the churches intimidate you. In this instance, they’re wrong.”
Among the crowd at the event in Par-la-Ville Park, now Queen Elizabeth Park, were PLP candidate Walton Brown and OBA shadow Health Minister Senator Michael Dunkley.
Mr Brown, the PLP candidate for Pembroke Central, told the crowd: “The issue is really very simple — anyone who has been a victim of discrimination and oppression in any form should not want to support oppression or discrimination against anyone else.
“We need to mature as a society — I don’t have much else to say because the issue to me is simple and fundamental. We need to respect and embrace differences and I want to live in a country that does that.”
Ms O’Doherty said that statistics on discrimination against gays in Bermuda were hard to quantify — but said she had been shocked by “bigoted and ignorant comments” when she appeared on the popular Sherri Simmons radio talk show earlier this week.
She added that US statistics showed that 92 per cent of gay students had been the victims of homophobic abuse, while 45 per cent of gay students of colour had suffered homophobic and racial abuse.
Ms O’Doherty said: “Although these are US statistics, it’s very real here as well.”
Anyone who wants to become involved with the Rainbow Alliance or show support for new legislation tp protecy gay people should contact email@example.com.