Bermuda has forbidden same-sex marriage only nine months after legalizing it in what gay and lesbian activists are calling a disappointing setback. After news of the decision, some on social media were calling for travelers to avoid the island in a Boycott Bermuda protest, using the hashtag #BoycottBermuda.
Jessica Stern, executive director of OutRight Action International, penned a letter to the editor of the New York Times responding to the Times‘ article “Bermuda Outlaws Gay Marriage, Less Than a Year After It Became Legal.” Stern urges that such a boycott could do much more harm to the queer community of Bermuda than good.
“It paves the way for LGBTQ Bermudians to become society’s scapegoat, to be blamed for any slide in foreign tourism and negative impact on the country’s economy,” she shares in her letter to the NY Times. “It risks increasing discrimination against a minority group whose rights have already been breached by the revocation of marriage equality.”
“Instead, the media and the international community should listen to LGBTQ Bermudians and elevate their priorities, not set their own misguided agendas,” she says.
Stern’s organization, OutRight Action International, seeks to advance human rights and opportunities for LGBTIQ people around the world by developing critical partnerships at global, regional and national levels to build capacity, document violations, advocate for inclusion and equality and hold leaders accountable for protecting the rights of all LGBTIQ people.
In an email to Hornet, Stern says, “I think [the Boycott Bermuda campaign] was well-intended, but it was also uninformed. Boycotting the island’s main source of income and employment — tourism — in the name of LGBTIQ+ rights is a recipe for disaster and backlash against queers locally.”
She also shared with us an email from an ally, thanking her for standing up against the Boycott Bermuda campaign.
The Bermudan ally wrote:
“I am emailing in my personal capacity to say – thank you very much. While firstly acknowledging the rather obvious failings on our side, the response from overseas — calling for the UK to overrule us and boycotting us — aren’t exactly too popular here for obvious reasons. Your statement respected Bermuda in our own right, you seem to have spoken with groups here which many clearly have not, and speaking in my capacity as a Bermudian who loves my imperfect island, an LGBTQ supporter, and someone who wishes to live under democracy not colonialism — I am deeply appreciative of your statement. I also am aware of a growing resentment here, and feel your statement will help suspend that trajectory, and I do believe many here will appreciate your sentiment. … Thank you very much.”
“Her email is a reminder that international solidarity is an expertise, and it’s an area we know very well,” Stern says, referring to her organization. “It also is a reminder of why LGBTIQ+ people globally need international organizations. International organizations can leverage our global platform and credibility to immediately aid small, under-resourced organizations that no one is listening to.”