FRIDAY, SEPT. 14: As Bermuda debates extending human rights protection to gay people, Scotland is aiming to legalise gay marriage.
The UK has had civil partnerships since 2005 – but Scotland is looking to become the first part of the UK to allow full marriage in churches.
Bermuda’s own Church of Scotland minister Barry Dunsmore declined to comment on controversy over delays in extending legal protection from discrimination to gay people in Bermuda and referred the Bermuda Sun to the church’s HQ in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The Church’s official position is that homophobia is “sinful” – strong backing for equal rights under the law for gay people.
Rev. Dunsmore, of Warwick’s Christ Church, which has around 600 members, said equality for gay people was a matter for Bermudians.
He added: “The Church of Scotland at the moment is debating the whole issue of same sex relationships.”
He was speaking after the Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda launched a campaign to highlight the lack of protection from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation under Bermuda law.
The campaign held a rally last month in Queen Elizabeth Park in Hamilton that attracted more than 100 supporters, including representatives of the ruling PLP and the main Opposition OBA.
Youth, Families and Sport Minister Glenn Blakeney in July signalled new laws to outlaw discrimination against gays and older people – but did not table legislation, opting instead for a parliamentary debate on the issue.
But he ruled out legislation to allow same-sex marriages.
A change in the law to include gay people in human rights legislation has been backed by the two largest religious groups on the island, the Anglicans and Catholics, although the AME, the third largest faith, maintains its opposition to changes in the law.
An online petition organised by the Centre for Justice to pressure Government into changing the law has already attracted more than 440 signatures.
A spokeswoman for the Rainbow Alliance said: “It is definitely a step in the right direction to have some of the churches come out as opposing homophobia.
“In reality, however, these proclamations of condemning homophobia must be supported and followed up by more support for the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) communities and people within these churches.
“Unfortunately, the church as an institution has a disproportionate amount of power and influence in much of society and politics, and they need to take responsibility for their role as an institution which should help spread acceptance and love of all people.
“So the genuineness of their condemning of homophobia and support of extending legal protection will only be shown through an more active role in dispelling so many of the myths and hate-speech which had been previously espoused by their very own institutions.
“As for gay marriage, or just ‘marriage’ as I like to call it, we can only hope that Bermuda will one day recognize the right for any consenting adults to marry each other.”