Bermuda same-sex marriage referendum set for June 23

Thursday, May 12, 2016

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HAMILTON, Bermuda (CMC) – Officials have announced that a referendum on same-sex marriage and civil unions in Bermuda will be held on June 23, giving campaigners on both sides six weeks to get their message across to voters.

A formal notice in the Official Gazette confirmed two questions will appear on the ballot paper.
1. Are you in favour of same-sex marriage in Bermuda?
2. Are you in favour of same-sex civil unions in Bermuda?
Premier Michael Dunkley confirmed on Wednesday that the referendum results would be “non-binding”.

He told a news conference the vote was “an opportunity for government and for the people of Bermuda to express their opinions on a very important subject”.

It is the first national referendum to be held in this British Overseas Territory in 21 years.

In 1995, roughly three-quarters of voters rejected independence which had been pushed by then Premier Sir John Swan of the now-defunct United Bermuda Party.
Opinion polls since have shown the vast majority of residents still oppose cutting ties with Britain.

One supporter of same-sex marriage said he expected there to be a concerted push in the last three weeks leading up to the referendum from those encouraging voters to answer “yes” to both questions.

Entertainer Tony Brannon said: “The feeling is that rather than waste any energy in May, the plan was to go hell for leather during the last three weeks. Everyone’s attention spans are nanoseconds these days. Three weeks before would be a good time.”

Brannon, who launched a petition calling for same-sex marriage last year, said various organisations were in talks about co-ordinating a joint campaign but nothing was confirmed yet.

“I am totally open to being in lockstep with a common effort; I’m waiting to hear if there is a common effort officially,” he said.

Among those leading the effort will be members of the Bermuda Bred Company, a group of bi-national couples who won a landmark ruling in the Supreme Court last November, giving same-sex partners of Bermudians the same rights to reside and seek employment as spouses of Bermudians.

The charity Preserve Marriage, which is opposed to same-sex marriage and civil unions, says its campaign will likely encourage voters to answer “no” to both questions.

Coincidentally, a referendum on the European Union (EU) is taking place in Britain on June 23.

The poll, popularly known as “Brexit”, will decide whether or not the United Kingdom stays in the EU.

Should the UK leave the EU, Bermuda’s Deputy Governor Ginny Ferson said there would be no knock-on effects specific to Bermuda.

“But a UK exit may mean that freedom of movement within the EU is likely to be up for renegotiation for all British passport holders.

“I believe that Brits all over the world are watching this closely, as are many non-Brits, and I would certainly encourage all those who are eligible to vote to consider doing so.”

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