In the wake of a legal challenge against Bermuda’s reversal of same-sex marriage rights, an international LGBTQ group has rejected calls for a tourist boycott of the island.
Last week, Rod Ferguson, a gay Bermudian living in the US, filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court arguing that the new Domestic Partnership Act is unconstitutional.
The act was signed into law earlier this month, replacing same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships.
This made Bermuda the first jurisdiction in the world to reverse marriage equality.
Ferguson is being represented by Mark Pettingill, the lawyer who won the Supreme Court case in May last year that legalised same-sex marriage in the first place.
While he is currently single, Ferguson said that he has “always considered myself to be the marrying kind” and believes he should have the right to get married sometime in the future.
“At first blush I thought this would be an easy decision. Obviously I believed that the law erasing the right to same-sex marriage in Bermuda needed to be challenged,” said Ferguson in a Facebook post.
“It was much harder to decide whether or not I’d be willing to put my name to the effort, knowing the exposure and scrutiny that comes with it, and likelihood of finding myself misrepresented by some in the public sphere. I think that fear would prevent any reasonable person from standing up for what’s right, but it shouldn’t.”
Pettingill, a former attorney general, told The Royal Gazette: “The crux of it is that the protection of law that existed under the Human Rights Act as a result of the judgment in May has been removed. This man’s, and many other people’s, fundamental rights and protections under the law have been usurped.”
Meanwhile, OutRight Action International responded to an online campaign calling for a tourism boycott to show the Bermudian government that repealing same-sex marriage was a mistake.
Tourism accounts for an estimated 28% of the island’s GDP, 85% of which is from North America. In December last year, the Bermuda Tourism Authority warned that the reversal of marriage equality risked becoming “an unnecessary threat to the success of our tourism industry”.
Jessica Stern, Executive Director of OutRight, pointed out that the “misguided” campaign was being spearheaded mainly by people in the US and Europe. While she agreed that the territory’s reversal of same-sex marriage was “a step backwards for equality” she believes that a boycott is not the answer.
“To be clear, the demand for this boycott is not coming from grass-roots organisations in Bermuda. In fact, LGBTIQ Bermudians are coming out against the boycott,” she said.
“This campaign stands to hurt rather than help the LGBTIQ community in Bermuda. This boycott, in line with almost all boycotts that do not start locally, is uninformed and ill-advised.
“It could increase discrimination against local LGBTIQ people, who may very well be used as scapegoats for any negative impact on tourism and the economy. Not to mention the consequences for LGBTIQ people who themselves work in the tourism industry.”
Stern added: “Without listening to voices from the ground we all stand to do more harm than good. I ask that you #DontBoycottBermuda and instead learn how to empower local organisations and the movement there.”
Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory; it is internally self-governing but the UK is responsible for defence and foreign relations. There had been calls for the British government to intervene in the repeal of marriage equality, but that failed to materialise.