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Ferson backs same-sex marriage

  • Leaving Bermuda: Ginny Ferson, the Deputy Governor
  • Leaving Bermuda: Ginny Ferson, the Deputy Governor

Deputy Governor Ginny Ferson yesterday backed same-sex marriage in Bermuda “before too long”.

Ms Ferson added that the island’s showdown on the issue helped her see perspectives she disagreed with.

She admitted that the subject of same-sex marriage could put her at risk of being seen as “controversial”.

Ms Ferson said: “I do not agree with that viewpoint, I believe in equal rights for everyone and I very much hope that it will be achieved in Bermuda before too long.

“But I do appreciate why it is a difficult issue for many people.”

Ms Ferson was speaking at Hamilton Rotary Club as she looked back on the “ups and downs, the legacy and the lessons learnt” of her 4˝-year tenure on the island.

Same-sex marriage in Bermuda was highlighted in April 2015 by entertainer and activist Tony Brannon, who organised a petition in support.

But a non-binding referendum in 2016 found a majority against the introduction of both same sex marriage and civil unions.

The referendum had a turnout of less than 47 per cent with 14,192 against same-sex marriage and 6.504 in favour.

A Supreme Court ruling in May 2017, however, paved the way for same-sex couples to wed.

Same-sex marriage was again outlawed by legislators in December that year, when the Domestic Partnerships Act, which offered civil unions to both gay and straight couples, was passed by Parliament.

The Act came into effect on June 1 this year but was successfully challenged in the Supreme Court on constitutional grounds less than a week later.

Chief Justice Ian Kawaley’s ruling, however, is to be appealed by the Bermuda Government.

Ms Ferson told Rotarians that “in the spirit of opening minds and embracing alternative viewpoints”, she wanted to recommend the 2016 BBC documentary Just Call Me Martina.

She said the “heart-warming story” was about gay former tennis champion Martina Navratilova, who married her girlfriend in 2014.

Ms Ferson said that “regardless of what our parents or church elders have told us about same-sex marriage, I suggest we ask — is it the truth, is it fair to all concerned, will it build good will and better friendship, will it be beneficial to all concerned?”

She said that living and working in a small community like Bermuda came with “its delights and its restrictions”, but that she and her husband had been enriched by the island’s diversity.

Ms Ferson said that hurricanes also stood out, with four major storms hitting Bermuda during her time on the island — the “double whammy” of Fay and Gonzalo in 2014, Joaquim in 2015 and Nicole in 2016.

She added that last year’s America’s Cup was proof of the island’s “talent and professionalism to stage a truly world-class event”.

Ms Ferson also mentioned Bermuda Day parades and the camaraderie of Cup Match.

She added: “I know I am not the first one to say it, but if only we could bottle that community spirit and apply it to everything we do, Bermuda would be an even more beautiful place to live.”

The Deputy Governor, who arrived in Bermuda in December 2013, will leave the island on July 27 for a new diplomatic post in Indonesia — where same-sex marriage is not recognised.

She will be replaced at Government House by Alison Crocket, an anti-corruption expert from the UK Foreign Office.