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Thursday, June 29, 2006 

Thursday, June 29, 2006


Webb: ‘Government has to protect everyone’
MP Renee Webb renews call for end to discrimination against gays

By Dan Jones

The spotlight shone on Bermuda's human rights laws last night when Government backbencher Renee Webb again pressed her case for discrimination based on sexual orientation to be outlawed.The MP was one of seven panellists at a public meeting that heard former Government Minister Quinton Edness state that he thought politicians should pass the amendment, when Ms Webb re-tabled the draft legislation."They should redeem themselves," Mr. Edness later told The Royal Gazette. Hopefully now they understand that the community feels upset by their actions. They do not want to be seen as not protecting other Bermudians. If that's the case they should not be there."The elder statesman also hit out at MPs for staying silent."This is a society that's suffered discrimination and many of the people who sat silently have suffered discrimination of the worst kind."They did not have the gumption to be able to say, I have a right now in my position to help protect those other people out there."He added: "Whether it had been passed or not, a proper debate on this would have done the community a great service."Other members on a panel holding diverse views on the issue were lawyer Mark Pettingill; ex- Minister Arthur Hodgson; psychology lecturer Quinton Sherlock and church representatives the Rev. Lorne Bean, of Bright Temple AME Church, Warwick, and Pastor Terrance Stovell, of the Better Covenant Christian Fellowship.Rev. Bean came in for criticism from one man in the audience of about 50 people at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute for preaching "un-Christian hate" from his pulpit on the gay rights issue."It's wrong that any church should try and force it's particular views on the public," said the man, who added that he found it "totally objectionable" that religious leaders were in the House of Assembly on the day most politicians stayed silent on Ms Webb's amendment.But Rev. Bean denied this amounted to intimidation and said the church presence in the House was an example of democracy at work."I feel we do have a right to be there on issues that are important to us," he told the meeting, adding that his critic might be seen as trying to impose secular views on the community.Mr. Pettingill said he was confident Ms Webb's amendment would be passed. "I believe this will end in a triumph for democracy."He later told The Royal Gazette that the suggestion raised by Premier Alex Scott that the law should not be changed until a test case had been brought to court were the wrong way of dealing with the topic."It's irresponsible for the Premier to say we will wait for a test case because the basis for good Parliamentary function is to see issues, address them and legislate for them, before you have to litigate. You should see it coming and then legislate."And Ms Webb told the meeting: "Government has to protect everyone. That's what human rights are about."Mr. Hodgson raised the idea of a referendum on the issue before noting that it was sad that MPs who failed to take part in the debate were not present last night.A broad sweep of topics were raised during the first of a series of "town hall" meetings, organised by The Smile Foundation, which runs arts and education programmes for youngsters.Subjects discussed included deficiencies in Bermuda's human rights legislation, the panel's views on the pro-democracy march on the House one week after Ms Webb's bill failed and the role of the church. Human rights in relation to black economic empowerment and education were also raised.


Copyright ©2005 The Royal Gazette Ltd.

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