Commentary: Can we please come together and face the real issues – it is high time that we did!

Commentary: Can we please come together and face the real issues – it is high time that we did!

By Eron Hill

The topic of same sex marriage has had a heightened presence in the news in recent memory. However, contrary to Bermuda’s longstanding perspective, for various sociological and societal reasons, this issue has highlighted the incontrovertible fact that our island home has perennially and continues to stifle an environment of inclusion and equality depending on the topic; it is high time for a paradigm shift!

Eron Hill is a former member of the Bermuda youth parliament and is currently a legal understudy at a local law form pursuing his law degree

Puisne Justice Simmons’ ruling on same sex marriage in the recent case of Godwin and Deroche did not make an illegal act legal, nor did it change the nature, conduct, or frequency of same-sex relationships; they have long since existed, albeit somewhat shielded from the mainstream. With this historic ruling (and regardless of your point of view it is undeniable the ruling is historic) such relationships will continue to exist in Bermuda.

Equally the ruling did not seek nor does it have the effect of asserting itself as a beacon of morality for our island home. As in any other case that comes before the courts, the law was considered and applied on the facts particular to this specific case. However, in this instance, the ruling gave much needed clarity on the legal position surrounding same sex marriages in Bermuda.

The government has opted not to pursue an appeal. Notwithstanding the fact that this position, their decision to have a ‘non-binding’ referendum coupled with the premier’s decision to abstain from this tough issue (the vote on same sex marriage in the House of Assembly) may unto itself be a matter of controversial debate, it is not the substance or purpose of this article to discuss those matters in any detail. Instead, I wish to highlight and strongly advance the point that we have alternative and serious issues facing us as a divided Bermuda electorate and society that deserve greater scrutiny, attention and support.

Nonetheless, the point must be pressed that should the ruling have gone the other way, the same group condemning the decision not to appeal would have undoubtedly submitted ‘The courts have spoken’ – whilst strongly resisting or criticising the efforts of the applicants to appeal.

In my view, the arguments against same-sex marriage have been wrong-footed from the start; and at times the group advocating against it has appeared to be advancing an unseemly bullying campaign. I’m certainly not the only heterosexual Christian thinking that, and I don’t mind being one of the few to voice it publicly. To be fair, we have seen from both sides, the age-old retreat to ad hominem attacks on those that disagree and form an alternate position.

But I digress… we have real issues that need our attention!

In the face of a daunting array of formidable challenges on our island’s metaphorical horizon are we are really prepared set and navigate our course; are we truly ready to pool our resources, efforts, and energy into a seemingly endless conflict over whether two individuals who are in love should be able to live happily together and enjoy the rights of marriage?

In Bermuda, ‘the paradise in the middle of the Atlantic’, we have young children who go to school hungry, we have an education system that, with all due respect, is not meeting the collective needs of young eager curious minds, we have a growing racial and economic divide which has led to an inequitable distribution of wealth and opportunities.

Every week we see leaders who have served Bermuda with great pride and effectiveness have their reputations besmirched over baseless allegations, we see veiled attacks on their businesses, and we’ve even seen some of our community activists placed before the courts – only to be discharged without trial. We are losing jobs at a rapid pace and have young Bermudians returning home from university brimming with knowledge vim and vigour who cannot gain employment in their own country and in their chosen field.

We have men as young as 17 being shot far too frequently, and on the other end of the gun are men of similar ages who are subsequently placed before the courts. We are losing our young men! All of these serious and sobering issues occurred prior to same sex marriage and, with the greatest degree of respect, should be considered to be the preeminent and pressing issues facing our island nation, not trying to reverse a court’s decision on same sex marriage!

It is an absolute pity that we don’t often provide the same vigour and robustness that has been demonstrated in the campaign against same sex marriage for the core and pressing issues currently and perennially plaguing our collective community. Are we really prepared to put these serious issues on the backburner?

I have said it once and I’ll say it again – As Christians we should live and demonstrate our faith and not settle for attempting to legislate it. We can believe in something without imposing our beliefs on others. Now that the LGBTQ community has received the right to marriage it takes absolutely nothing away from those who don’t support their beliefs or engage in that particular lifestyle.

In closing, whether you agree with the positions adopted in this article or not, whether you agree with same-sex marriage or not, it is my sincerest hope that at the very least we can all practice and follow the edict of tolerance. Equally, I also remain eternally hopeful that in the fullness of time we can also come together with the same force and passion to face the real issues – it is high time that we do!