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Bermuda steps back from same-sex marriage, a disturbing decision

Refocus with Gerard Veldhoven

Bermuda’s government has backtracked and reversed the same-sex marriage law that was in place as of May 2017. This British deeply conservative territory decided to strip away marriage from committed same-sex couples. Only a handful of couples married during the past six months or so, in a country of 63.000 inhabitants.

This is a decided step back and a world first. Apparently, the British government could have intervened but chose to instead respect the decision of Bermuda’s democratically elected self-government.

England’s Prime Minister, Theresa May said she was disappointed by the decision, but yet failed to influence a human rights issue. The president of the LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD, made the following statement: “As the world faces a resurgence of anti-LGBTQ activism, Bermuda just earned the shameful recognition of becoming the first national territory to strip away marriage from loving, committed LGBTQ couples.”

In a referendum in 2016, voters rejected the notion of same-sex marriage and same-sex civil unions. The voter turnout was reported to be low, but with the change the government obviously took note of those voters. As we face a world where discrimination and human rights are notoriously violated, the LGBTQ community faces a more difficult future as well.

We tend to believe that we are on the road to recovery, but reality indicates that discrimination is on the rise again, Canada not excluded. On top of that we are experiencing an increase in crimes against the LGBTQ community, as is evident in Toronto’s murder of six gay men.

These horrendous acts of violence against gay men are serial killings the like of which has not been experienced in this country. We tend to believe these acts only occur in other places, but not in our beautiful nation where all is well, or so we like to believe.

The LGBTQ community does not experience equality, and is not being accepted on a positive scale. We do have equal marriage, pension benefits and other perks, but we are not even close to living peaceful lives as our eyes and ears remain vigilant.

We can no longer pretend that all is well. The media reports are filled with incidents of violence against minorities, and we had better remove our rose-coloured glasses and see reality. Our families, friends and allies are on side, but we know that the majority of Canadians really do not consider the fact that discrimination is rampant in this country. We tend to point a finger toward the US hearing about the constant attacks on people, a president who does not respect anyone or anything.

It’s the so-called wild-west all over again, making it one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Trump’s cabinet, including vice-president Mike Pence, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, are notorious enemies of the LGBTQ community. They are extremely influential with many Americans and the discrimination is increasing in the US, not only against the LGBTQ community, but countless others. How are we able to respect a nation that prides itself on being a world class country and a leader in social justice, when evidence of injustices is so blatant? Canada, considered one of the best countries in which to live, has problems of its own as discrimination against LGBTQ folks remains a serious issue.

Acceptance is not as widespread as we may tend to believe. The work continues and Bermuda, a tiny place, is a prime example of how a step back is so easy to accomplish. Is this possible in Canada?

Gerard Veldhoven is a former Amherst resident who is a longtime activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. His column appears weekly in the Amherst News. Comments and information:

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