BERMUDA: Turnout takes gay parade organisers by surprise
HAMILTON, – Organisers of Bermuda’s first gay Pride parade said they were bowled over by the turnout with the police estimating that the colourfully-clad crowd that marched through here on Saturday numbers over 5,000 – the majority being visitors.
According to the Royal Gazette newspaper the parade was “an explosion of colour and joy”.
Former Tourism Minister Renée Webb, now the ruling Progressive Labour Party (PLP) government’s representative in Europe, flew home from Brussels for the parade, but there were no immediate reports of any current politicians joining in.
But Members of Parliament – especially from the government side are expected to be out in force on Monday for celebrations on the Labour Day holiday in which the island’s unions will take centre stage.
The gay parade was held as the PLP presses ahead with plans to go to the Privy Council in London — Bermuda’s highest court of appeal — to reintroduce a ban on same-sex marriage in the island.
Estimates by marriage-equality campaigners have put the cost of the action at US$3 million.
Speaking as the parade marched along Front Street on Saturday, Elizabeth Christopher, one of the organisers, said: “This is way bigger than we expected. We are so excited. It was building — things have changed — but it was never quite this.”
The response was also a surprise to Roderick Ferguson, a US-based entertainer whose case was responsible for the government’s Domestic Partnership Act (DPA) being overturned and the re-legalisation of same-sex marriage in Bermuda.
“The turnout was amazing — way more than I expected. This is so huge because this is the first time the support for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexuaL, transgender, quyeer) Bermudians has been visible.
“We ourselves did not know how much support we had until today. This is why this is so hugely important,” Ferguson.
He said that growing up in Bermuda, he never expected such a large event to celebrate the island’s LGBTQ community.
“Honestly, even last week I didn’t. I had no idea this many people would show up with such support. It’s just a wonderful day,” he added.
MaryEllen Jackson, who joined Ferguson in the legal battle against the DPA, said the turnout was “amazing”.
“This is beyond any expectation. Amazing.The atmosphere is electric. It’s wonderful to see people throw in their support from the sides, from the crowd. It’s something I never imagined would happen.
“Did I ever think I would see a rainbow flying in Bermuda? No. Did I expect to see a sea of rainbows? I thought that would never happen, but here it is.”
Bermuda’s Supreme Court ruled in May 2017 that gay couples could marry but six months later the government passed the DPA, outlawing same-sex weddings.
A challenge was brought against the act by Ferguson, with others joining the legal action.
Former Chief Justice Ian Kawaley ruled on their case in June last year, finding that the parts of the legislation that restricted marriage to opposite-sex couples were unconstitutional.
He agreed to a request from the government for his decision to be “stayed” pending an appeal, meaning gay couples could no longer wed.
The Court of Appeal upheld Mr Justice Kawaley’s ruling in November and allowed same-sex marriages to take place again.
Bermuda had earlier become the only country in the world to allow samer-sex marriage and then ban it.
Between May 2017 and June 2018, 20 same-sex couples tied the knot — 14 on the island and six at sea. There have been two more same-sex marriages since the Court of Appeal’s judgment.
Three couples have entered into domestic partnerships since June 1 last year, with one more union pending.
Although Godwin and DeRoche became the first couple to be able to marry here, they chose to tie the knot in Canada instead.
A non-binding referendum in 2016 recorded a majority vote against the introduction of both same-sex marriage and civil unions.
However, the vote had a turnout of less than 47 per cent, with 14,192 against same-sex marriage and 6,514 in favour. (CMC)