Premier Michael Dunkley announced today that the people of Bermuda will be asked to decide whether same-sex should be allowed in Bermuda referendum.
The announcement came about an hour after Community Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin tabled a draft bill on same-sex unions in the House of Assembly this morning, which would allow same-sex unions in Bermuda, and two weeks after legislation that specifies marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
Ms Gordon-Pamplin told MPs that while the issue is an emotive one, recent Supreme Court rulings and the European Convention on Human Rights required that the Bermuda Government to act, which goes into effect today.
Said Premier Dunkley: “It is the intention of the Government to table a referendum bill on the matter later in this legislative session” that allows the “people of this country” to ” express their opinions on same-sex marriage and civil unions via a referendum.
“This Government believes in upholding fundamental and basic human rights. As such, Government has an obligation to bring the matter of same-sex unions to a resolution.
“And in order to get the widest possible reach of views from the people it is the intention of this Government to table a Referendum Bill on the matter later in this legislative session.
“We are committed to extending the consultative process so that the people of this Country can express their opinions on same-sex marriage and civil unions via a Referendum,” said the Premier.
“As a final and important point, this Government is of the view that marriage is a union between a man and a woman, which is why we tabled in the House the Matrimonial Causes Amendment Act 2016 to strengthen the Act.”
The Premier’s full statement can be read by clicking here.
On Friday, prior to the Budget Reply by Shadow Finance Minister David Burt, Opposition MP Dennis Lister tabled a motion on behalf of MP Michael Weeks, calling for a referendum on same-sex marriage.
The motion read: “Be it resolved this Honorable House calls on the Government to hold a Referendum to ask the people of Bermuda by vote of either ‘yes or no’ if marriage should remain between a man and a woman, and no form of same-sex civil unions be lawful in Bermuda; and further that this referendum be included on the Ballot at the next General Election.”
Earlier today, Mr Burt challenged the government’s lack of action following an earlier legal case, allowing unmarried and same-sex couples to jointly adopt. Ms Gordon-Pamplin said consultations with stakeholders following the ruling.
Meanwhile, Pastor Maria Seaman, was contacted by Bermuda Real for her initial reaction. She questioned the need for a referendum.
“If the Government believes that marriage is between a man and a woman, then why do they need a referendum? Nearly 9,200 people have already spoken. Just solidify marriage with a supremacy cause. Save money on referendum and sure-up Marriage,” said Pastor Seaman.
Efforts to reach a spokesperson in support of same-sex marriage on their initial reaction were unsuccessful at post time.
Meanwhile, Minister Pamplin-Gordon said today, the bill is still in the consultative stage as discussions continue.
On same-sex adoption she said she will bring information to the House in due course.
By Ceola Wilson