This weekend my neighbourhood was invaded by roaming bands of overdressed activists, spilling onto my property uninvited, disturbing my yard work and encouraging me to go down on my knees and pledge my devotion to a man. They weren’t homosexual recruiters, slumming in the suburbs. They were religious evangelicals, acting under the mandate of their dogma and the protection of human rights legislation.

I listened patiently to their pitch, declined their literature and bid them a good day as soon as I could politely do so. I do not agree with their world view, I resent their intrusion and I wish they would just stay away but I cannot prevent them from visiting my neighbourhood, living or working nearby or from peaceably enjoying their lives, beliefs and pursuits no matter how much they conflict with mine, nor do I feel the need to. They came, we disagreed but we parted company amicably and no-one was insulted, injured or materially impeded by the encounter.

I was struck by the contrast with need for the gathering on Friday outside the House of Assembly to protest the death by silence of a bill to extend similar freedoms to live, work and co-exist in peace to a group who feel they have been singled out for exclusion from these protections and which certain churches have actively and apparently successfully sought to keep excluded.

As a believer that discrimination in any form is wrong, I was pleased to see the level of support the protest got, but I was ashamed to see that in a community where discrimination on the basis of race is the first retort, there were very few black faces inside the wall to protest the failure to put one more nail in the coffin of state sponsored discrimination.

The moment you accept that there are situations when it is acceptable to discriminate against a group of people you do not like or understand you legitimize every act of discrimination against blacks, Jews, Protestants, Christians, left handed people or any other historically oppressed group. On Friday, Bermudians from all walks of life gathered on the hill to say discrimination is fundamentally wrong in whatever form it takes.

The problem with the current legislation is that it lists, categorically the grounds under which human rights protection is extended to the residents of this island. By compiling a list specifying who is entitled to protection we exclude anyone who does not fit in one of our neat little boxes. What the law should simply say is: ‘No-one may discriminate against any law abiding individual on any grounds’. Period.

Heterosexual and homosexual people don’t have to like each other, neither do blacks and whites or Christians and Muslims, UBP or PLP supporters. What we all must do is recognize everyone’s right to live in peace, to pursue their ambitions and to conduct their lives within the secular laws of the land.

The weakness of the existing legislation, and of the proposed amendment for that matter, is the infinite scope that remains to discriminate against anyone not specifically characterized by the act.

‘Lite’ beer drinkers, adulterers, video game players, obese people, unmarried mothers, childless marriages, people over 55; in short, anyone you don’t like, outnumber and can draw a line around.

Paula Cox completely missed the point when she complained that she would like to see the same outpouring of support for racial issues. Racial discrimination is already specifically covered by the legislation although that does little to prevent her government from raking its embers when it’s convenient, so perhaps her confusion is justified.

Judge not...

By his own admission, the Premier, who could not be moved by 15,000 signatures of qualified voters on a petition, was easily swayed by a scant 100 e-mails from unknown, unqualified, church men who pressured the government into sanctioning the continuation of discrimination but are deaf to their own doctrine which tells them to forgive, love their neighbour and not to judge because it is not their place.

Perhaps the key to protection, for the homosexual community at least, would be to declare themselves to be a religion and so gain immediate protected under the existing legislation.

Their devotions would remain as quiet and personal as a faith should be and they would be free to perform the mandates of their religion without fear of harm or reprisal.