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By Keith Archibald Forbes (see About Us) exclusively for Bermuda Online
A happy Bride and Bridegroom after a Bermuda wedding, photo Bermuda Tourism
Traditional Bermuda wedding cake
Note that Bermuda has Bermudian (local, not UK or American or Canadian) laws on marriage and divorce. Bermuda is a foreign country, not part of USA, not part of United Kingdom, not part of Canada.
For visitors or residents, Bermuda is a lovely place in which to get married, whether you opt for a civil wedding in the Registrar's Office (see below) or, if a local, a wedding before a minister in church complete with all the frills.
2017. December 9. Legislation to replace same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships was passed in the House of Assembly last night. The Domestic Partnership Act 2017 was passed following a five-hour debate after a vote in which 24 MPs supported the Bill being reported to the House, while ten opposed it.
Bermuda marriages for residents and non-residents are under the Bermuda Marriage Act 1944 and Marriage Amendment Act 2016, and as further amended, if on a Bermuda-registered cruise ship, the (Bermuda) Maritime Marriage Act 1999 and Marriage Amendment Act 2002. All certificates of a Bermuda marriage are issued by the Registrar - see below - for all island marriages, whether civil, religious, church or ship. American, British, Canadian and other consular officers cannot perform marriages individually or at their consulates. But if required, American and other consular officers may authenticate Bermuda marriage documents, for a fee. Bermuda does not have UK-style (England & Wales) civil annulment laws. Bermuda marriages are legally valid in the United States and elsewhere.
A Bermuda Moongate wedding is a unique piece of Bermudiana
Application, eligibility for and basic costs of a Bermuda civil (not religious) marriage
The Registry General of the Bermuda Government handles all genuine requests for birth, marriage and death certificates and any replacements needed of them. The address is Government Administration Building, 30 Parliament Street, Hamilton HM 12, Bermuda. Telephone (441) 297-7707 (or 7709). Contact it directly - not via this website - for any questions and the fees payable in Bermuda or United States dollars. For more information on fees associated with civil marriage ceremonies visit https://www.gov.bm/content/apply-marriage-licence). A period of 14 days must elapse from the date of receipt of the notice by the Registry before the Registry General may issue the license to marry. Parties to the intended marriage are not required to be resident during this time. The license to marry may be issued on or after the 15th day provided no formal objection has been raised to the intended marriage. The license to marry must be issued within three months of the receipt of the notice by the Registrar General and remains valid for three months from the date of issue. Once the couple has the marriage license, the ceremony can be performed. Airmail to Bermuda often takes from 8-12 days from Canada, United Kingdom and USA. Minors must have notarized written consent of both parents or the surviving parent or legal guardian. A space is provided on the form for this purpose. A marriage will not be performed if either or both parties are under 16 years at the time of the ceremony. Names and residential addresses of both applicants must always be shown in full. This submitted notice will result in a wedding license valid for three months. You or a designated person may pick up this license at the Registrar office.
More than 60 percent of all notices of marriage in Bermuda show couples living together in North America or Europe at specific addresses before the ceremony.
If you or your spouse-to-be have been married before, you must send well before you arrive official copies of final divorce decrees for each marriage of each person. Or either or both of you are a widow or widower, please send a copy of a death certificate. In both cases they must be from the relevant office of a particular state, province or county and country that issued the divorce or death certificate. Appropriate checks are made from Bermuda with federal and state or provincial authorities in the USA and elsewhere to determine if proposed marriages are bigamous and/or are being undertaken out of the USA, etc. to try to conceal marriage disclosures from Social Security or tax authorities.
Most weddings for visitors are civil weddings. In June 2016 new local legislation was introduced to allow them to take place at any suitable venue in Bermuda. Until then, the Marriage Amendment Act restricted couples seeking a non-religious marriage to perform the ceremony at the Office of the Registrar General in Hamilton. Civil marriages account for roughly one in four marriages (23.2 per cent) on the island. Any bizarre or inappropriate locations would likely be vetoed by the Registrar to ensure the dignity of a ceremony is not usurped in the process. Most occur at the Regisrar General's Office but since September 2016 marriages contracted before the Registrar General can now be held at alternate approved locations which include Admiralty House Park, Arboretum, Astwood Park, Blue Hole Hill Park, Botanical Gardens, Chaplin Bay, Church Bay, Clocktower Mall Dockyard, Devonshire Bay Park, Elbow Beach (the public beach as accessed from Tribe Road 4B Paget), Ferry Point Park, Fort St. Catherine beach, Great Head Park, Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Park, Horseshoe Bay, John Smith’s Bay, Jobson’s Cove, Scaur Hill Fort Park, Shelly Bay beach, Somerset Long Bay, Spanish Point Park, Stonehole Bay, St. David’s Lighthouse Park, Tobacco Bay, Victualling Yard in Dockyard, and Warwick Long Bay. Parties wishing to contract marriage in the presence of the Registrar for any of these venues must submit the requisite fee to the Registry General, at least 14 days prior to the proposed date of marriage. The fee is in addition to the fee which is required to be submitted with the Notice of Intended Marriage Application form. The onus is on the parties to be wed to obtain written permission from the owner or occupier of the venue (eg Wedco or Ministry of Public Works) and notify the Registrar accordingly of the date. The time will be confirmed by Registry General staff. In addition parties are responsible for arranging the logistics of set-up and any other features related to the wedding. The Registry General Office will only be responsible for providing a table, chair and relevant documents for signature. In the event of inclement weather, prohibiting an outdoor wedding, the alternate venue for the marriage will be the Registry General.” In such cases, the marriage ceremony fee may be reduced to the fee applicable to marriages conducted within the Registry General.
Generally, only residents, or persons marrying residents, qualify for a church wedding. Catholics cannot be married in Catholic churches in Bermuda except under exceptional permissible circumstances, for example, if a parent or parents of the bride or groom live there. Questions on this subject must be addressed by airmail directly to the Bishop of Hamilton in Bermuda, P. O Box HM 1191, Hamilton HM EX, Bermuda. Locally, Catholics are required to give 12 months notice. In Catholic marriages it is normal for the marriage to take place in the church nearest to where the bride's parents live.
Most engaged couples over 18 years old in the USA, Canada, United Kingdom etc. not married before want a church wedding where the bride lives, with family and friends present. Thus, most visitors who want to get married in Bermuda may have been married before. For details of where to stay for people who wish to wed or honeymoon in Bermuda, see our Accommodation files.
Please note the Bermuda Government will not conduct or allow phony matrimonial unions in Bermuda. Registry staff pore through news clippings from countries including but not limited to the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, the Caribbean and Europe. It is an offence for persons to enter into a sham marriage or to arrange such a marriage for personal gain. Non-Bermudians will not derive any benefit from the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act if it is determined that they are in a sham marriage.
All adults and children need individual official passports from your country of birth or domicile to enter Bermuda. Do NOT attempt to enter Bermuda without a valid passport. It is the only way of confirming your identity. Birth certificates, state or provincial documents do not do so.. The majority of visitors arrive by air, but some are by cruise ship. All travel documents must be shown to Bermuda Immigration on arrival. Also needed are a Green Card or equivalent, if a legal registered alien in Britain, Canada or USA; a US re-entry permit if entering Bermuda from the USA and not a US citizen. (Check with the US Department of State). Citizens of Australia, Britain, Canada, European Union, New Zealand and USA may not require one as visitors. But Jamaican and other nationals do. Citizens of other countries may and should consult a British Embassy or Consul. Plus, if - like all nationals of Caribbean islands far to the south of Bermuda - they travel to and from Bermuda via Britain or Canada or the USA, they must obtain and bring the appropriate in transit documentation or visas required by the Immigration authorities of these countries for both portions of the journey. Plus, you will need:
Wedding couple in St. George's, Bermuda, outside old ruined churchCivil ceremonies may be performed in the Registry General's Marriage Room. Call 441 297 7709 or 441 297 7707 or Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
In Bermuda, unlike in the USA, Justices of the Peace do not have authority to perform weddings, so they are not licensed to do so unless they are also a local minister or priest of a recognized church and are licensed in Bermuda to perform weddings.
No aircraft in Bermuda or any accommodation properties are allowed under any Bermuda laws to marry you in Bermuda. However, a captain of a Bermuda-registered cruise ship may do so with the appropriate necessary procedure and approval.
Persons licensed by the Bermuda Government to conduct marriages are ministers of a particular religion with the sole exception of the Registrar of Marriages. Under the provisions of the Marriage Act 1944 the Minister of Labor, Home Affairs & Public Safety of the Bermuda Government can license a particular visiting minister or someone else certified in their jurisdiction as a qualified and competent religious minister or pastor or rabbi - for one Bermuda marriage ceremony. This means that if you can afford it and give plenty of notice yourself and also ensure that the clergy person or pastor of rabbi do the same via the same Bermuda Government office, you can bring in someone qualified from where either one or both of you live, to perform the wedding ceremony. In such circumstances, weddings can be in places other than local religious centers, if you can find a minister to do so (not easy if you are not local, you may need to consult a wedding planner). In all individual cases where a visiting priest or rabbi performs a marriage, a public notice of an "Appointment of a Marriage Officer" appears in a numbered Bermuda Government announcement in the Bermuda Official Gazette. It shows that the Minister of Labour, Home Affairs & Public Safety licenses the priest or rabbi of the publicly specified church or temple or synagogue or congregation to perform a marriage ceremony in Bermuda on the specified day. But understand that you may be asked to pay the transportation, accommodation, food and other costs and expenses of the religious person you arrange to bring in for the ceremony, or the relevant expenses of any local minister or equivalent.
Ceremonies may be held in a church or other location with the consent of a member of the clergy. They are entitled to make a charge for this service. They are required to ask for and obtain under Bermuda law the appropriate applications and approvals and/or consents referred to earlier. Wedding planners, dressmakers, etc. also apply extra charges. Only British subjects resident in England or Scotland or Northern Ireland who marry a British subject resident in Bermuda, and for whom banns are called in their normal place of worship in the United Kingdom, can also have their banns called in the church in Bermuda where the marriage takes place. Ask directly at the church for details. Some local churches will require considerable notice from both parties for weddings.
Married in Bermuda, by a church minister
The witnesses must be over 18 years of age and must be present at the ceremony. The Registrar will happily supply witnesses but Monday to Friday only.
No blood tests or health certificates are required in Bermuda. But note your Notice of Marriage notice is published by the Registry staff in two of the local newspapers of record in Bermuda, including the Official Gazette.
There are two types of such official public notices. They are one or other of the following:
This is what they both say, in this fictitious example:
"The persons named and described hereunder have given notice to me of their intended marriage, namely Do Re Me of River Drive, New York, New York 10025, USA (single) and Maiow B.Topcat (divorced) of Tennessee Drive, New York, New York 10025. Dated this 18th day of August, 2006. Marlene Christopher, Registrar General."
Historically, Bermuda was once known as the honeymoon capital.
Bermudians, locals or visitors, celebrate marriages in various ways. One way is to see lines of private cars all with horns blaring, en route to the wedding. When they come into sight, most cars are of a single make. The cars carrying members of the wedding party have ribbons adorning their bonnets. The ribbons were British customs adopted in Bermuda.
But many Bermudians and locals prefer horses and carriages - traditional Bermuda Surreys with the "fringes on top." A smartly-dressed carriage driver in a gleaming pith helmet, steers through the streets to the church a radiant, smiling, beautiful bride, with her immaculately attired father seated next to her.
When she smiles and waves to appreciative onlookers, the whole world wishes her well. Females watching the cavalcade get misty-eyed. After the wedding ceremony, the bride and her husband leave the church in the same way, clip-clopping to their changed lives ahead. Some nuptials - for locals only, who can persuade their church ministers to be there - are conducted on the pink sand of Bermuda's beaches.
Following behind them in more carriages to the wedding reception are the bride's parents, then the groom's parents in another, the bridesmaids and matron of honor in a third, and so on. Some newly-married couples head for a Bermuda Moongate to bring them luck. It's a local tradition. Popular beauty spots and attractions make perfect backdrops for wedding photographs, for example, the Bermuda Botanical Gardens or Palm Grove Gardens in Devonshire Parish. Bermuda Moongates have a particular appeal to newly-weds and are features of parks, hotels and many private properties. Although Moongates did not originate in Bermuda - the custom was imported from the Orient by Bermudian captains of sailing ships in the latter part of the 1800s - they have become a Bermudian tradition for newly-weds to step through together. The Lladro Bridal Couple figurine, imported, shown in the second photo below is gorgeous. It illustrates the local tradition of honeymooners walking through a moongate to be granted their wish for peace and happiness.
Bermuda Moongate at Tobacco Bay, showing a newly-married Maine couple. Photo copyrighted by this author.
Lladro figurine showing a Bermuda Moongate, a distinctive Bermuda wedding souvenir.
Traditional Bermuda wedding cakes are usually culinary works of art, often two, one for the bride and one for the groom. The bride's cake is usually a tiered rich dark fruit cake, laced with plenty of alcohol, iced with marzipan and silver leaf and topped with a small cedar tree to be planted by bride and groom as a sign of fertility. The groom's cake is a single layer pound cake again iced with marzipan, but with gold leaf. Especially (but not exclusively) when British expatriates are getting married, the wedding party and guests sing "For they are jolly good fellows." For weather forecasts on your Bermuda wedding day, consult Bermuda Weather. It is a Bermuda Government service, provided by the Ministry of Transport, Department of Air Operations.
Travel agents in the USA rate Bermuda as the seventh-best place in the world to tie the knot and for a honeymoon. Bermuda has also been number 5 in the top ten best places for romance. (Bermuda was not rated in places with the coolest beach sites, best beaches, best bargains or hottest wedding party spots).
If not a local, but needing music, you will not be allowed to import a musician, you must use someone local. It will be expensive. Or, as a less expensive alternative, bring special pre-recorded violin or other instrumental or choir or duet or trio or orchestral music of the type you and your spouse jointly really like, to make the occasion as romantic as possible. One of the most romantic and beautiful of all marriage proposal songs is this one, The Proposal, Sung by the Norman Luboff Choir, Alan Bergman, Marylyn Keith, Norman Luboff at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSSOQdU6tAM. Another is Like My Heart, also by the Norman Luboff Choir, written by William Attaway, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRinAPksjh4.
Some recommended music, by outstanding artistes:
|Music or song||Performer||composer|
|An Eriskay Love-Lilt||Celtic Tenors||traditional, Scottish|
|A Place In My Heart||Nana Mouskouri||J. P. Ferland/H. Shaper|
|Casta Diva. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2p5T8U2qGF4||Nana Mouskouri||Bellini|
|Der lindenbaum||Nana Mouskouri||Schubert|
|Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes||Roger Whittaker||English traditional, words by Ben Jonson, music at least by 1770|
|Fare Thee Well, Love||Celtic Tenors||Jimmy Rankin|
|Home Sweet Home||Home Sweet Home 19th Century Music Party||Bishop|
|If Dreams Came True, Dear. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30jJlIZRJ1c||Pat Boone|
|I Have A Dream||Nana Mouskouri||B. Anderson/B. Ulvaeus|
|In The Gloaming||Celtic Tenors||words Meta Orred, music Annie Fortescue Harrison|
|Last Rose of Summer||Celtic Tenors||words Thomas Moore, music traditional Irish|
|Liebestraum No. 3 (Dream of Love)||Various||Liszt|
|Listen To The Ocean. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXeGhIJWG5I||Nina & Frederick||Van Pallandt|
|My Love Is Like a Red Red Rose||Roger Whittaker||Robert Burns|
|Love Changes Everything||Nana Mouskouri||Lloyd Webber, Black, Hart|
|Only Time Will Tell||Nana Mouskouri||Schubert|
|Plaisir D'amour||Nana Mouskouri||Schwarzendorf|
|Qual Cor Tradisti, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BQxcaYp8Jk.||Nana Mouskouri||Bellini|
|Remember Me||Celtic Tenors||Phil Coulter|
|Romanza d'Amour||A violin duet||Anon|
|Summer of My Dreams||Celtic Tenors||David Mallett|
|The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face||Nana Mouskouri||E. Mac Coll|
|The Prince of Denmark's March, for trumpet and organ||Various||Clarke|
|The Power of Love||Nana Mouskouri||De Rouge/G. Mendell|
|Unchained Melody, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrK5u5W8afc||Righteous Brothers|
|Voi che sapete||Nana Mouskouri||Mozart|
|Wedding Day at Troldhaugen||Various||Grieg|
|Wedding March from a Midsummer Night's Dream||Various||Mendelssohn|
|Will You Come||Home Sweet Home 19th Century Music Party||Barnett|
|Emerald||May||Lily of the Valley|
|Seventh||Copper, Wool||Desk Sets|
|Tenth||Tin, Aluminum||Diamond Jewelry|
Marriages/Weddings at sea
2017. August 2. Bermuda’s Supreme Court ruling paving the way for same-sex marriage has been adopted by P & O Cruises, now the first British cruise lines to offer the unions, along with Princess Cruises and Cunard. The development, reported online by Cruise Critic, has been taken up by the three divisions of Carnival, which have their ships registered on the island. In a statement, Paul Ludlow, senior vice president of P & O Cruises, stated: “I am delighted that following this much anticipated change in the legalities we are now the first British cruise line to be able to arrange same sex weddings on-board.” P & O’s inability to offer same-sex marriage has generated negative press in the past. Cunard, which switched its ships’ registration from the UK to Bermuda in October 2011 to benefit from regulations here allowing couples to wed at sea, is reportedly offering same-sex marriages from November 2018. In a statement online, Josh Leibowitz, senior vice-president for Cunard North America, said the company was “proud to become among the first cruise lines to offer same-sex marriages at sea. Cunard has brought people together through travel for over 175 years, and we’re proud to mark another milestone in our company’s history as we welcome our first gay marriage booking and many other marriages to come.” Princess Cruises, which has 13 ships registered on the island, issued a statement: “We are currently working on developing a range of services and amenities to meet the needs of same sex couple ceremonies and will release full information on these shortly.”
NCL Cruises, see http://www2.ncl.com/freestyle-cruise/wedding-and-romance
P&O Weddings, see http://www.pocruises.com/wedding/termsandconditions.asp.
Princess Cruises, see http://www.princess.com/learn/onboard/gifts_services/celebrations/wedding/index.jsp
Royal Caribbean Cruises, see http://bookings.royalcaribbean.co.uk/findacruise/experience/html.do?exCode=622&wuc=GBR
Marriages on board a cruise ship are conducted by either the captain or staff captain. Bermuda-registered ships such as Cunard, P&O and Princess Cruises mean that wedding certificates will be issued by the appropriate Bermuda Government agency.
A marriage vow means a commitment for life in good times and bad, not just for a period of time, so marriage vow renewals are technically superfluous, a romantic notion but important to some. Some may want them to be as solemn as the original vows and at the same venue, before one's family and friends and with the same minister or at least in the same church or place of worship. Others seek a romantic offshore location like Bermuda. There is no legislation or regulation in Bermuda affecting marriage vows renewals. Unlike in the USA and other foreign countries where Justices of the Peace can perform both marriages and marriage renewals, in Bermuda they cannot. Because marriage vow renewals in Bermuda are not marriages they do not require the attendance of any local official licensed to perform a marriage. Which in effect means you can ask a member of a ship's crew, if you are on a cruise, or a friend, to officiate inexpensively instead of going through any unnecessary expense or bureaucracy.
See Bermuda Laws. Citizenship is not given to any non-national unless he or she marries a Bermudian of the opposite sex and stays married to and lives with that Bermudian for at least 10 years and then applies for citizenship and receives it.
Bermuda is gorgeous as a place in which to get married but be aware that because of its remoteness, very small size, with almost everything imported, only 62,400 permanent population and other lack of economies of scale through no fault of its own and significant Bermuda Government import duties averaging 35 percent of wholesale value, it is very expensive by USA standards. See Cost of Living Guide. This is why so many Bermudians infinitely prefer to do their furniture, hardware, appliances, computer and wedding shopping in the USA, despite the 35% Customs Duties now levied not per person but per household on returning residents for goods valued at more than $100.
How this compares with residents from USA, Canada and UK returning to their home jurisdictions from their Bermuda visit.
However, note that visitors
arriving in Bermuda to get married in Bermuda, in addition to their normal
personal effects such as golf clubs, clothes, camera, and relevant accessories
are permitted to import goods for Bermuda weddings (e.g. party favors, wedding
dress, wedding rings, wedding gifts) free of duty provided that they are
2018. January 17. A British politician has called on Boris Johnson, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, to prevent Bermuda from taking the “entirely retrograde step” of reversing marriage equality. Chris Bryant, Labour MP for Rhondda, told the House of Commons last month that Bermuda’s Parliament was “begging the foreign secretary to allow it to cancel same-sex marriage” just six months after the Supreme Court judgment which enabled gay weddings to take place. He asked that Mr Johnson, who was not present in the Commons, come “to the House to explain his policy on Bermuda”. Mr Bryant added: “Six couples have already been married, and they are to be unmarried, which surely even this Government must think is wrong. Will the minister make sure that the Government tell the Bermudan (sic) Parliament very firmly: ‘No way, we are sticking with same-sex marriage’?” Mr Bryant’s remarks were made in reference to the Domestic Partnership Act 2017, which was passed in Bermuda last month and is aimed at replacing same-sex marriage with civil unions. John Rankin, the Governor, has yet to give assent to the bill to enable it to become law. If he does, no further gay marriages will be allowed. Those that have already taken place, either in Bermuda since the May 2017 court judgment or, prior to that, elsewhere in the world, will still be deemed legal marriages on the island. Asked for comment on Mr Bryant’s remarks, a spokeswoman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said yesterday: “The UK Government is a proud supporter of LGBT rights and supports same-sex marriage. While the UK Government is disappointed with the implications of this Bill, this is a matter for the Bermuda Government acting within the terms of the Bermuda Constitution and in accordance with international law.” Walton Brown, the Minister of Home Affairs, declined to comment, as did Mr Rankin. A Government House spokesman said: “The Governor is considering the Bill in accordance with Section 35(2) of the Constitution. In considering the Bill, he has taken legal advice.” Gay marriage became legal in the UK, apart from in Northern Ireland, in 2014. Previously, civil partnerships had been available since 2005 and couples in civil partnerships could convert those unions into legal marriages after a clause in the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 came into force. Mr Bryant, a former Church of England priest, entered into a civil partnership in 2010. As of December 20, 2017, eight gay couples had married in Bermuda.
2018. January 10. The reversal of marriage equality in Bermuda continues to make international headlines, with a British newspaper reporting this week on the “devastation” of a couple whose cruise ship wedding has been cancelled. The Sun newspaper reported yesterday that Stephen Henderson, 29, and Stuart Andrews, 36, from Coventry, Warwickshire, were due to get married on a Bermuda-registered P&O cruise ship in July 2019 in the Bay of Biscay but were told by the cruise line on December 20 that their wedding could not take place. P&O, which ran a marketing campaign last year encouraging gay couples to wed on board its ships, explained to the couple that the Government of Bermuda was replacing same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships and offered a full refund. But Mr Henderson told the tabloid newspaper: “It is just mad. It is the 21st century. It is the most important day of our lives. We were planning so much already. We got everything organized.” A P&O spokeswoman told the UK’s Pink News last month that it was “very unhappy” with the Government’s decision to reverse marriage equality and did “not underestimate the disappointment this will cause those guests who have planned their weddings”. A spokeswoman told this newspaper yesterday that the May 2017 Supreme Court decision which allowed gay marriage in Bermuda had “delighted” the cruise line as it had wanted to offer same-sex ceremonies for “many years”. She said the introduction of domestic partnerships under a Bill passed by Parliament last month would “replace or overturn” that court ruling. “Although we are awaiting further information from Bermuda, it is unfortunately likely to be the case that Bermudian law will not permit a same-sex wedding ceremony on board our ships after January 2018,” added the spokeswoman. She said P&O Cruises would still love to welcome gay couples on board for a commitment or renewal of vows ceremony, officiated by the captain or a senior officer. The spokeswoman did not answer questions from this newspaper about how many P&O customers would be affected by wedding cancellations and whether the reversal of marriage equality would impact whether the cruise line registered its ships in Bermuda in the future. The Domestic Partnership Act has yet to be approved by John Rankin, the Governor, who has taken legal advice on the legislation. It cannot become law without his assent. A Government House spokesman said: “The Constitution does not stipulate a timeframe for assenting to Bills. It will take as long as is needed for the Governor to satisfy himself as to its compliance with the Constitution and international obligations. There are a number of legal arguments which have been put forward and need to be properly considered.” Couples whose marriage banns are posted before the law comes into effect will still be able to wed, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs. That includes another couple from the UK who are due to marry on January 17 on board a P&O ship. Vicky Marno and Siobhan Crosby, from Skegness, said yesterday that their ceremony in the Caribbean on board Azura was still fine to go ahead.
2017. December 30. John Rankin, the Governor of Bermuda, is taking legal advice on giving assent to a controversial Bill designed to replace same-sex marriage with “watered-down” domestic partnerships. Government House confirmed the Governor had asked for legal opinions on the Domestic Partnership Bill in line with provisions in the island’s Constitution. A spokesman said: “The Governor is continuing to consider the Bill in accordance with Section 35(2) of the Constitution. In considering the Bill, he is taking legal advice as appropriate.” The Domestic Partnership Bill was passed by both Houses of Parliament in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling in May that paved the way for same-sex couples to marry in Bermuda. The Constitution does not stipulate a time frame for assenting to Bills. It is understood that legal arguments over whether the Bill is in line with the Constitution, and international obligations, have to be considered. The Foreign Office said this month: “While the UK Government is disappointed with the implications of this Bill, this is a matter for the Bermuda Government acting within the terms of the Bermuda Constitution and in accordance with international law.” Section 35 (2) of the Constitution outlines procedures for the Governor to sign a Bill. The Governor has to signify that he assents or that he withholds assent or that he “reserves the Bill for the signification of Her Majesty’s pleasure”. The Governor has to “reserve for the signification of Her Majesty’s pleasure any Bill which appears to him, acting in his discretion ... to be inconsistent with any obligation of Her Majesty or of Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom towards any other state or power or any international organisation”. The section also allows the Governor to refuse to sign a Bill that is considered to be “in any way repugnant to or inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution”.
2017. December 22. The first gay couple to marry on a Bermudian-registered P&O cruise ship is also set to be one of the last. British couple Victoria Marno and Siobhan Crosby are due to marry in the Caribbean next month on the cruise line’s MS Azura. But the just-passed Domestic Partnership Act will outlaw same-sex marriage not only on the island but also on any P&O ship around the world. Ms Marno told The Royal Gazette: “When we first looked into a wedding at sea, we knew that it would just be ceremonial. However, I was confident the law would change by the time the date came round, which it did. When I noticed in the newspaper that the law was possibly being changed back, we were devastated.” She added: “Thankfully, I believe our marriage will still be legal in Bermuda. It had certainly been a stressful time and especially with less than a month to go. To be told you can and then months later be told maybe you can’t is not fair. We wanted to make history for the right reasons and not just because we will be one of the very few to be married legally.” The couple said they were thrilled after Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons’s landmark ruling in May paved the way for marriage equality in Bermuda. But they started to worry when they heard that Walton Brown, the Minister of Home Affairs, had tabled the Domestic Partnership Bill, which was designed to replace same-sex marriages with watered-down domestic partnerships. The Ministry of Home Affairs yesterday confirmed that Ms Marno and Ms Crosby’s wedding, as well as three other scheduled same-sex marriages in Bermuda, will be legal even after the domestic partnerships law comes into force. A ministry spokeswoman added that any same-sex couples who posted banns before the Bill is signed into law will also have their weddings honored. Parliament last week approved the Domestic Partnership Act, which signaled an end to marriage equality on the island. John Rankin, the Governor, however, has yet to give assent to the Bill and make it law. P&O, which had announced it would offer legal same-sex marriages on its ships for the first time, said in British gay newspaper Pink News yesterday that it was “very unhappy” over the Bermuda decision. A spokesman for the cruise line said: “We are very unhappy about this decision and we do not underestimate the disappointment this will cause those guests who have planned their weddings.” Ms Marno and Ms Crosby have appeared in an article on P&O’s website to celebrate that they would be the first gay couple to marry on one of its Bermudian-registered ships. The Ministry of Home Affairs also confirmed that marriage banns for same-sex weddings are still being accepted in the run-up to the expected law change. A spokeswoman for the ministry said: “Until the law takes effect, the Registry General is still accepting same-sex marriage applications. Application forms for domestic partnership will be available on the date the law takes effect.” But Ms Marno said: “I think it is out of order for a government to revert the law within such a short space of time. I feel as though the Bermudian government does not have the right to change the law without allowing the people of Bermuda to have a vote. I think they should have a binding referendum.”
2017. December 21. Four gay couples who are planning to marry at sea on Bermudian-registered ships will still be able to tie the knot, the Government confirmed today. Marriage banns have been posted by the Registrar-General for the unions, with two of the ceremonies due to take place this month and a further two in January. Parliament approved legislation last week to replace gay marriages with domestic partnerships, signaling an end to marriage equality on the island. But a Ministry of Home Affairs spokeswoman confirmed today that the four maritime weddings for which banns have already been posted would be able to take place. And she said the Registrar-General would still accept applications for the posting of same-sex marriage banns “until the law takes effect”. Application forms for domestic partnerships will become available on the date the law takes effect. As of yesterday, John Rankin, the Governor, had yet to give assent to the Bill to enable it to become law. A Government House spokesman: “The Governor is considering the Bill in line with his responsibilities under the Constitution.” P & O and Cunard cruise lines, both owned by Carnival Corporation & PLC and who offer weddings at sea, said they were aware of the repeal of marriage equality on the island and were “awaiting further updates regarding same-sex marriages on our ships” from the Bermuda Government. A Cunard spokeswoman said: “Once we have confirmation on the final outcome, our priority will be to update those same-sex couples who have booked marriages.” Gay couples have been able to marry in Bermuda and on ships registered on the island since a landmark Supreme Court ruling in May. A total of eight couples have taken advantage of the decision, with seven weddings at the Registry-General and one private ceremony elsewhere. British tabloid newspaper The Mail on Sunday claimed at the weekend that Mr Rankin was taking advice on requesting Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s authorization to veto the Bill. But the article quoted a Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman, who said: “The UK Government is a proud supporter of LGBT rights and continues to support same-sex marriage. “While the UK Government is disappointed with the implications of this Bill, this is a matter for the Bermuda Government acting within the terms of the Bermuda Constitution and in accordance with international law.” The Domestic Partnership Act 2017 was approved by MPs on December 8 and by senators last Wednesday. Gay and straight couples will be able to enter into domestic partnerships but same-sex weddings will no longer be allowed once it is enacted after gaining Royal Assent. The first gay couple to wed here were Bermudian lawyer Julia Aidoo-Saltus and her partner, Judith, who spoke out against the plan to reverse the court ruling. The most recent couple was two men, one of whom was Bermudian, who tied the knot in the Registry-General’s marriage room. The tiny South Atlantic Ocean island of St Helena, also a British Overseas Territory, this week approved same-sex marriage by a parliamentary vote of 9-2.
2017. December 18. Boris Johnson, the British foreign secretary, is under pressure to veto Bermuda’s ban on same-sex marriage, a UK newspaper said yesterday. The Mail on Sunday, a conservative tabloid that sells around 1.28 million copies in Britain, added that John Rankin, the Governor, had taken “advice on requesting Mr Johnson’s authorization to veto the bill”. The newspaper also said Mr Rankin had to get approval from the foreign secretary before he could withhold consent on an Act passed by the island’s Parliament. The news came less than a week after the Senate backed the Domestic Partnership Bill, which is designed to replace same-sex marriage with a watered-down legal relationship open to both gay and straight couples. The Mail on Sunday said Mr Johnson’s position was “fraught with difficulties” and that a veto would “spark uproar and accusations of neocolonialism” in Bermuda. It added that if the Act is signed into law by Mr Rankin, Bermuda would face a backlash from a boycott of its tourism industry. A foreign office spokesman told Mail on Sunday: “The UK Government is a proud supporter of LGBT rights and continues to support same-sex marriage. While the UK Government is disappointed with the implications of this Bill, this is a matter for the Bermuda Government acting within the terms of the Bermuda Constitution and in accordance with international law.” The article, published yesterday, also quoted Chris Bryant, a former Labour government Overseas Territories Minister, who called on Mr Johnson to let Mr Rankin veto the Act. Mr Bryant said: “A British citizen, regardless of what part of Britain they’re from, should have the same rights. If approved, the law would make Bermuda the first country in the world to cancel gay marriage after previously allowing it.” Political heavyweights in the US have also hit out at the island’s removal of marriage rights. Howard Dean, a former presidential candidate, a former Governor of Vermont and one-time chairman of the Democratic Committee, tweeted on Friday: “Progressive Labour Party in Bermuda just eliminated gay marriage. Americans who really are progressives should find another vacation spot.” The tweet had nearly 1,500 re-tweets and more than 3,300 likes by yesterday afternoon. Same-sex marriage became law in England and Wales in 2013 and in Scotland, which has a devolved Parliament and its own legal system, a few months later in 2014. Same-sex marriage is not recognized in Northern Ireland after it was blocked by the hardline Democratic Unionist Party in the province’s Assembly. Civil partnerships for gay couples had become law nine years earlier and applied across the UK. Government House yesterday declined to comment on the Mail on Sunday story and referred to its statement last week that “in considering this matter, the Governor will continue to act in accordance with his responsibilities under the Constitution.”
2017. December 18. Lawyer Mark Pettingill is to consider a constitutional challenge to legislation designed to replace same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships. Mr Pettingill told The Royal Gazette that a gay couple had approached him to weigh up the potential of taking the case to court on constitutional grounds. The former Attorney-General played a major role in the island’s human rights battle over same-sex marriage when he represented Winston Godwin and his Canadian partner Greg DeRoche in the civil case that led to a Supreme Court ruling that enabled gay couples to marry in Bermuda. Mr Pettingill stressed the couple had yet to decide “if, and it’s very much if, we were to proceed”. He added: “A couple is seeking advice with regard to a challenge on the basis that their constitutional rights are being infringed by the passing of this Bill. We are in the process of considering that position. Certainly, it’s not a novel concept, where Bills have been challenged in the past, both in Bermuda and other jurisdictions. There is a lot of precedent for this. More importantly, a constitution has to be read as a living, breathing document in modern time. The fundamental rights of the individual in accordance with section one of the constitution are sacrosanct.” Mr Pettingill was a prominent critic of the Domestic Partnership Act 2017, which was approved by the Senate last week. He said it was “disheartening”, and a “watering down” of human rights. The legislation, which would offer partnerships to heterosexual as well as same-sex couples, was put out for public consultation last month by Walton Brown, the Minister of Home Affairs. Mr Brown said the debate had been “a prolonged matter of great division”. A home affairs ministry spokeswoman said there had been 3,024 e-mail responses, including 16 received after the consultation deadline. The majority, 2,836, were “robot” e-mails from overseas, all in support of same-sex marriage. The ministry received 188 e-mails from Bermuda residents. A total of 22 of them came from “a local activist”. The spokeswoman added there were six e-mails from opponents of same-sex marriage, and four from “persons who gave specific comments about the Bill”.
2017. December 13. The first Bermudian to marry her gay partner on island has spoken out against steps to repeal same-sex marriage, declaring: “One day all will know that love is love.” Julia and Judith Aidoo-Saltus, who were married on May 31, spoke as senators prepare today to debate legislation to introduce domestic partnerships. Yesterday, the couple told The Royal Gazette in a joint statement: “Love is love. Our marriage remains lawful under the laws of Bermuda and is sacred before our friends, our families and our God.” Julia, a Bermudian lawyer, married her Ghanaian-American partner Judith after a landmark Supreme Court ruling that paved the way for same-sex marriage in Bermuda. However, last Friday, MPs voted 24-10 in favour of the Domestic Partnership Act to replace same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships. The couple pointed to a comment from late American marriage equality activist Edith Windsor, who said: “Marriage is a magic word. And it is magic throughout the world. It has to do with our dignity as human beings, to be who we are openly.” They added: “Accordingly, we will continue to pray for all those who are struggling with this basic issue of marriage as a measure of a society’s understanding of human dignity and, ultimately, respect. Fortunately, we believe in miracles and in God. One day, all will know that love is love. And it is free.” Yesterday, Kevin Dallas, chief executive of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, warned that the Bill would damage tourism and urged senators to vote against it. Bermudian Bruce Whayman married his partner, Roland Maertens, on the island in September. The couple said they were “disturbed and saddened” by Friday’s events in the House of Assembly and branded the Government’s “backward agenda” an “international embarrassment”. Mr Whayman said: “Bermuda is being run by a party that is progressive by name, but not by nature. The country has a net debt of $3.7 billion and growing daily, yet one of the first policy decisions from this government is to discriminate against a minority of its population and simultaneously discourage an untapped new market from coming to Bermuda and spending up on what would be the happiest moment of their lives. A legal marriage offers equality under the law. Equality is what this is all about. Please don’t patronize the LGBT community by offering domestic partnership agreements. They are widely unrecognized worldwide. Our last hope is that equality and common sense prevail, and the Bill will not receive the requisite signature from the Governor of Bermuda.” Meanwhile, an American man who also wed in Bermuda said repeal of same-sex marriage would create inequality within the island’s gay community. The man said he was “struggling” with the reality that should the Act become law his relationship would be classified as a marriage while other same-sex couples would have partnerships. “We will have inequality in our own section of the community,” said the man, who spoke with the Gazette on the condition of anonymity. “I find this so strange. To be one of the six or seven couples with that title doesn’t make me feel good — it makes me feel even more divided than ever.” The man and his partner were married on November 6. It was the sixth same-sex marriage performed in Bermuda. A Ministry of Home Affairs spokeswoman confirmed yesterday that one additional same-sex marriage had since been performed, with another “scheduled to take place before the end of the year”. The man said he had experienced the same debate on same-sex marriage in the United States, and that he had hoped to come to Bermuda with his husband to “live a normal life”. However, he added: “But as I visit more and more I feel like I’m going back in the closet more each day. This doesn’t represent all of Bermuda, but certain interactions I’ve had, either going to a restaurant with my husband or going through immigration and customs and mentioning that I am married to a Bermudian, doesn’t always get the warmest welcoming. Sometimes it’s easier for me to blend in like a tourist because no one looks at me differently.” He said that the couple had worked with an on-island lawyer who advised they marry as soon as possible ahead of changes “coming down the pipeline”. He said he and his partner together decided to tie the knot ahead of a possible change in law. It meant not being able to take time to plan a ceremony that included family and friends. “Marrying at the Registrar was not what either of us wanted for our special day. But it had to be done to safeguard our relationship.” He said he hoped that John Rankin, the Governor, would not sign off on the Act should it pass in the Senate. OutBermuda, a gay rights advocacy group, said it felt the consultation period on the controversial legislation had been inadequate. “Most importantly, our efforts to engage in good faith with the Ministry of Home Affairs during the consultation process should not be viewed as our approving the spirit of the domestic partnership legislation,” the group said on Facebook. The organisation said it would continue to advocate for all issues affecting Bermuda’s LGBTQ population, including marriage equality. Questions sent to representatives with Preserve Marriage and the Rainbow Alliance had not been responded to by press time.
2017. December 13. Former Progressive Labour Party senator Kim Wilkerson has criticized a Bill aimed at replacing same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships as a “step back for human rights”. Ms Wilkerson, who was instrumental last year in blocking legislation designed to restrict marriage to opposite sex couples, told The Royal Gazette she was “disappointed” and “disheartened” by the proposed law, which will be debated in the Senate today. She predicted that the PLP’s five senators would vote in favour of the legislation and that the Bill would also win the support of enough of the three independent members to ensure its safe passage through Parliament. “I don’t know how the new [PLP group in the] Senate will vote but my expectation is that they will vote in favour of it, because they are all new,” she said. “For them, it gives a set of rights, a legislated framework. They will take the view that ... that’s better than nothing at all.” Her view differed, she said, because section 53 of the Domestic Partnership Act 2017 — which says a marriage is void unless between a man and a woman — would actively remove the right of gay couples to wed, despite a Supreme Court ruling from May this year which determined that it was discriminatory to deny them marriage. “It’s just retrograde,” said Ms Wilkerson, who remains an active member of the PLP. “I was very disappointed, disheartened [when it was tabled]. I think it was a step back for human rights. I believe singularly that it must make us unique in the entire world: to have come to a place where we had marriage equality and then we take it away.” In July 2016, Ms Wilkerson helped to quash a Private Member’s Bill tabled by fellow PLP parliamentarian Wayne Furbert. The Bill, which sought to restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples by amending the Human Rights Act, was approved by MPs but lost by six votes to five in the Senate, with Ms Wilkerson the only PLP senator to go against it. She said she searched her heart when deciding how to vote, ultimately deciding the “role of the legislator is to enhance and build upon the rights of citizens, not to take them away”. Ms Wilkerson said party leader Marc Bean made clear it was a vote of conscience and she was not criticized afterwards for opposing it. “There were some who said party members were unhappy with me, within the PLP caucus. But there was no backlash whatsoever. There was a clear understanding that we — that I, at least — was going to be voting on conviction. I was never challenged within the PLP caucus on that and I was grateful for that.” She said the Bill to be debated today was “very much” an attempt by the Government to strike a compromise, since so many constituents — and party members — were opposed to gay marriage. “My sense is that a majority of people within the party probably accord with the view against same-sex marriage,” said Ms Wilkerson. “Irrespective of how I feel, an overwhelming view of constituents is that they would prefer not to see same-sex marriage legal.” She suggested that independent senator James Jardine, who voted against Mr Furbert’s Bill, might be inclined to support domestic partnerships on the basis that they are a “reasonable middle ground that gives a legal framework” to gay couples. Neither Mr Jardine nor fellow independent Joan Dillas-Wright, who supported Mr Furbert’s Bill, would comment on how they plan to vote today. Michelle Simmons, the other independent senator, could not be reached for comment. Opposition Senate leader Nandi Outerbridge said it was “safe to say” the One Bermuda Alliance’s three senators would oppose the Bill. She said the party’s position was “it’s wrong to take rights away from people” and the status quo should remain. OBA senator Andrew Simons made a plea for all his colleagues in the Upper Chamber to delay the Bill for a year by voting against it, whatever their view on same-sex marriage. “This goes beyond politics,” he said. “The role of the Senate is not always to block legislation but delay it, at times. If this piece of legislation was delayed for a year, you might find that the mood of the island has changed, The need for this legislation would diminish further. People’s hearts would have softened. There would be a greater understanding.” He noted that global opinion on gay marriage — once an “impossible idea” — had changed dramatically in the past 20 years and would continue to evolve. “Equality doesn’t harm anyone, but for people who can suddenly get married it makes a huge change,” he said. If the Act is approved, it will need the assent of John Rankin, the Governor, to become law. A Government House spokeswoman said: “In considering this matter, the Governor will continue to act in accordance with his responsibilities under the Constitution.”
2017. December 13. Bermuda Tourism Authority chief executive Kevin Dallas has written to senators urging them to vote against legislation to replace same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships. Mr Dallas says the BTA is convinced that the legislation would result in “lost tourism for Bermuda” if passed. The Domestic Partnership Bill is due to be debated by senators tomorrow, after it was passed by MPs in the Lower House late on Friday night. “Since last Friday’s vote, we have seen ample evidence of negative international headlines and growing social-media hostility towards Bermuda that we feel compelled to express our concern about what the negative consequences could be for tourism if the Domestic Partnership Bill passes the Senate this week,” Mr Dallas said. “We believe the Bill poses an unnecessary threat to the success of our tourism industry. We urge you to vote no and appreciate the opportunity to lay out the reasons why. Importantly, we do not view domestic partnerships as a negative in isolation. In fact many jurisdictions permit domestic partnerships without adverse impacts on their economies. The circumstance in Bermuda is different — and troubling — in one important way: same-sex marriage is already the law of our island and to roll that back for what will be seen as a less equal union will cause us serious reputational damage. We are convinced it will result in lost tourism business for Bermuda.” In the letter to senators, Mr Dallas highlights two examples of states in the United States — North Carolina and Indiana — that have suffered a tourism decline after legislation that impinged on the rights of the LGBT community. He states that the LGBT community contributes $165 billion worldwide per year, of which $65 billion is spent in the US. Mr Dallas writes: “The Bermuda tourism economy, and the workers and businesses who make it thrive, deserve their fair share of the LGBT market, as we all continue the uphill climb towards tourism resurgence. Significantly, it is not only LGBT travelers that care about equal rights based on sexual orientation. Our research indicates many companies, consumers and travelers, including the overwhelming majority of the younger visitors powering Bermuda’s growth, care about this issue.” He told senators: “While it’s not possible to project the precise ramifications of a yes vote for Bermuda, we are confident the impact will be negative,” Mr Dallas said. “The ominous headlines since last Friday signal the hazards ahead. The yet-to-be-written headlines associated with a yes vote in the Senate could be damaging enough to derail the seven consecutive quarters of growth the Bermuda tourism industry has enjoyed dating back to January 2016. Tourism workers are getting more hours on the job, visitors are spending more of their money on-island and entrepreneurs are flocking to the tourism economy because they sense a bright future of sustained growth. Let’s not jeopardize that growth. We should send a message that Bermuda continually and permanently lives up to its well-earned reputation as a warm, friendly and welcoming destination. A no vote on the Domestic Partnerships Bill will make that message crystal-clear to the world.”
2017. December 12. The removal of the right to same-sex marriage highlights a massive generation gap in Bermuda, young island commentators said yesterday. Dwayne Robinson, of online current affairs show It’s That Type of Party, said the Domestic Partnership Act “very clearly” highlighted the age divide on the issue. He said: “The older generation holds tight to their faith and religious beliefs. The older generation embodies ‘Bermuda is another world’ and they will fight to protect that. Younger folks are much less traditional and have been exposed to a collective, progressive mindset that most millennials tend to share.” Trae Cannonier, Mr Robinson’s co-presenter on ITTP, agreed. He said: “Most of us were raised in some form of religious household — however, as we’ve grown our mindsets have changed. I’m not going to say that our generation is more open-minded but I would say we have instant access to significantly more information than our parents did.” Mr Cannonier’s father, One Bermuda Alliance MP Craig Cannonier, voted for the new Act. But Trae Cannonier said he and his father had always separated their political viewpoints from their personal relationship. He added: “He very much respects my opinions and admires my ability to think for myself as that’s what he raised me to do. We disagree a lot but are still able to do so respectfully and we still remain as close as ever.” Mr Robinson said that the duo was disappointed by the new Act but not surprised. He added: “We know that Bermudians like to stay in their bubble and for the status quo to remain the same. That’s one of the main reasons our youth are running out of this country the first chance they get.” Mr Robinson predicted the watered-down option for gay couples would “stain” Bermuda’s reputation overseas. He said: “We feel that the repercussions will be felt a bit further down the line when the word begins to spread. The PLP may find itself in a similar position of the previous government with an unsatisfied group of citizens knocking on their door.” Mr Robinson said ITTP would back any non-violent bid for marriage equality. He added: “The next step is for us to join in with other advocates and continue to try and make a change. We don’t want this to turn into a clash of conflicting mentalities but into a chance to gain mutual understanding.” Civil rights group the Centre for Justice also said the change in the law was not a surprise — but it was still disappointed that Government “chose to roll back full marital equality”. The comments came after MPs on Friday voted 24-10 in favour of the Bill to replace same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships. But the Centre for Justice said it was “encouraged” by an amendment that gave recognition to all same-sex marriages celebrated outside of Bermuda. The organisation also said it was encouraged by the “change of tone” in many speeches made by MPs during the debate in the House of Assembly. The Centre for Justice added: “Several MPs acknowledged that this issue highlights a generational gap and philosophical difference between parents and their young adult children whose worldwide view in more inclusive and progressive.” Justin Mathias, chairman of the Future Bermuda Alliance, the youth wing of the OBA, said the legislation was a “sad day” for Bermuda. Mr Mathias added: “For us to be this close to being the first country to renege on same-sex marriage is baffling. There is a huge generational gap with many issues in our country, but on this single issue I believe it is at its greatest. The younger generations are far more progressive and believe that everyone within our community should have equal rights under the law. The majority of FBA members backed same-sex marriage. The one thing we unanimously agree on is that it isn’t right to take away rights that have already been given to people within our community. We are in a new age and the world is changing.” Eron Hill, of youth group Generation Next, did not respond to requests for comment.
2017. December 9. Legislation to replace same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships was passed in the House of Assembly last night. The Domestic Partnership Act 2017 was passed following a five-hour debate after a vote in which 24 MPs supported the Bill being reported to the House, while ten opposed it. Home affairs minister Walton Brown, who introduced the Bill, said it would provide same-sex couples with a raft of legal rights but prevent any further same-sex marriages. He also confirmed that the legislation would not have retroactive affect on same-sex marriages after the Supreme Court ruling in the Godwin and DeRoche case against the Registrar-General. In that case, Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons ruled that the Registrar-General could not reject a gay couple’s application to marry in Bermuda and that the common law definition of marriage as between a man and a woman was “inconsistent with the provisions of the Human Rights Act as they constitute deliberate different treatment on the basis of sexual orientation”. During yesterday’s debate, PLP backbencher Lawrence Scott said the Bill brought balance and gave “the LGBTQ community the benefits it has been asking for”, while keeping the “the traditional definition of marriage”. He said: “As it stands now, they can have the name marriage but without the benefits. But after this Bill passes, they have the benefits and just not the name marriage. The benefits are what they really want.” However, shadow home affairs minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin said she could not support the Bill “having given a community something only to take it away”. She added: “I don’t like to accept that it is OK for us to treat our sisters and brothers differently, whether fair or unfair, to treat them differently under similar circumstances.” Leah Scott, the deputy leader of the One Bermuda Alliance, also said she could not support the Bill because it took away a right that already existed. However, PLP backbencher Wayne Furbert said he supported the Bill even though it was not everything he wanted. He added: “I support it because at the end of the day it removes the right to same-sex marriage and it tells the court that this Parliament will stand for what is right.” However, Jeff Baron, the Shadow Minister of National Security, said it was a “very flawed and, frankly, shameful Bill”. Instead of protecting equality, he said, it was “stripping Bermuda’s reputation naked for the world to see”. Walter Roban, the Deputy Premier, supported the Bill and said it came from of a “desire to bring some sort of stability on how the country will manage itself around this issue”. But the Minister of Transport said: “This is an issue in progress. It is going to be shaped and moulded by us and it is going to be shaped and moulded by the generations to come. So do not believe what we decide here is final.” Craig Cannonier described the Bill as “lukewarm” and said: “It’s half and half. It’s a compromise Bill. I would prefer it if you were hot or cold.” PLP backbencher Michael Scott acknowledged that the Act was a “compromise” but added that his conscience did not allow him to support the Bill because “if falls short”. He added: “I will not rob same sex couples of that opportunity. I have seen same sex couples raise children with great success. Every citizen must be allowed the liberty to freely choose. Shadow legal affairs minister Trevor Moniz described the Bill as a “retrograde action”. He said: “To take that right away from them is something that is abhorrent to me.” PLP backbencher Neville Tyrrell threw his weight behind the Bill. He said: “A lot of people are saying this is a compromise, I don’t think it is. It’s a middle road. Nobody is really going to win.” PLP MP Scott Simmons described the Bill as imperfect but said: “This Government has decided to address this issue that no one else wanted to deal with. We said we would repeal and replace but we cannot satisfy everyone. It’s not perfect. But we have to go with what we have got.” Sylvan Richards, the shadow minister of planning, said he would support the Government’s Bill, which he described as a “halfway house” that achieves what needs to be achieved at this time. “It’s going to give individuals the rights they need and it’s going to keep marriage between a man and a woman, which was my goal. Then it’s going to be the future generations that will take it to the next step.” However, shadow education minister Cole Simons would not support the Bill. He said: “This country has to evolve like other countries.” Meanwhile, PLP MP Derrick Burgess said he would back the Bill, which “is not all I wanted, but this is what we promised. This is the best solution. I support this Bill and believe marriage should be between a man and a woman.” Grant Gibbons, the shadow economic development minister, confirmed he would not be supporting the “regressive” Bill. He said: “This is a human rights issue. We are taking away marriage equality rights from the LGBTQ community.” Opposition leader Jeanne Atherden added: “We are taking away rights that have been granted to communities of individuals who want to start families.” Mr Brown concluded: “We need to find a way in Bermuda to fully embrace greater rights for all members of the community. But the status quo will not stand. On the ground, the political reality is that if we do not lead we would have a Private Members Bill tabled to outlaw same-sex marriage. That Bill would pass because more than 18 MPs are opposed to same sex marriage. If that Bill passes same sex couples have no rights whatsoever. This is tough for me. But I don’t shy away from tough decisions.” Jeanne Atherden, Jeff Baron, Michael Dunkley, Grant Gibbons, Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, Susan Jackson, Trevor Moniz, Leah Scott, Cole Simons and Ben Smith opposed the Bill being reported to the House.
2017. December 8. The number of marriages in Bermuda in 2016 fell to 450 from 509 in 2015 — an 11.6 per cent drop. Walton Brown, Minister of Home Affairs, said marriages between people who were both non-Bermuda residents accounted for 231 — 51.3 per cent — of the 450 marriages performed. Mr Brown said: “This figure still is in keeping with the trend over the past five years for marriages between non-residents to exceed the number of marriages between residents and marriages between a resident party and a non-resident party.” Four hundred and sixty-eight marriages were performed aboard 28 Bermuda-registered ships last year — a decrease of 97 or 17.2 per cent on the 565 performed in 2015.
2017. December 7. A Bill designed to replace same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships is set to be approved without amendment by MPs tomorrow, despite criticism from across the community. Groups on both sides of the divide called for the Domestic Partnership Act 2017 to be altered before it becomes law, but sources told The Royal Gazette yesterday that it was not likely to be changed. It is understood that the vote tomorrow will be one of conscience for the Progressive Labour Party’s 24 MPs — the Speaker of the House would be required to vote only in the event of a tie — as opposed to a vote along party lines. But two government backbenchers told The Royal Gazette that no PLP representatives were likely to oppose the Bill. One predicted that home affairs minister Walton Brown, who tabled the legislation on November 24 after a two-week public consultation period, would “prevail”. Another said the legislation would pass because there was “no dissension within the ranks”. Preserve Marriage, a group opposed to gay marriage and civil unions, asked on Tuesday for the Bill to be widened in scope to allow people not in an “intimate relationship” with one another to get legal benefits of domestic partnership such as next of kin and inheritance rights. The Centre for Justice, meanwhile, urged the Government to withdraw a section of the bill giving primacy over the Human Rights Act to a clause in the Matrimonial Causes Act which makes marriages void unless between a man and a woman. The civil liberties organisation said the section would “roll back ... those rights” conferred to same-sex couples by the landmark Supreme Court judgment in May this year which paved the way for gay marriages. The Human Rights Commission and the Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda have also criticized the Bill. They said it was a “removal of rights” for gay couples. Preserve Marriage president Melvyn Bassett said yesterday that he believed the Bill would pass in its present form whether MPs were allowed to vote with their conscience or under orders from the party whip. Dr Bassett said he liked to think there would be a PLP MP with a strong enough view against same-sex marriage to propose the amendment requested by Preserve Marriage. But he added he was not hopeful and predicted that even junior finance minister Wayne Furbert, the party’s most vocal opponent of gay marriage and civil unions, will vote in favour of the Bill. Dr Bassett said: “He fears that if anything is added there might be some argument over the amendment. So he and others are saying ‘let’s make sure this thing passes’.” Dr Bassett said Preserve Marriage viewed the Domestic Partnership Act as creating a union “almost identical to marriage” and that was unacceptable. He said a better solution would be to create an entirely different kind of legal partnership, available to everyone, whether or not they were in an “intimate relationship”. Dr Bassett added removal of the “intimacy” aspect of the Bill would make the law less likely to be challenged in court. He said: “Preserve Marriage agrees that under the European Convention, the Government is required to acknowledge same-sex couples by providing them with legal rights but those rights are very similar to what others could benefit from. Two sisters, for example, could choose to enter into a partnership for legal reasons if they wanted to own property together. If there is a parallel to marriage, it will open government up to legal challenges. We are suggesting they could eliminate the legal challenge. We don’t want to fight in court on a parallel Act. It would seal it, I think.” Lawyer Rod Attride-Stirling, who represented the HRC in the civil proceedings that led to the judgment on same-sex marriage, said MPs should think long and hard before approving the Domestic Partnership Act. Mr Attride-Stirling said: “There is lawful same-sex marriage in Bermuda and there have been several marriages now, so the Government is taking away a right that exists. If the Supreme Court had not already ruled on this, then the position would be very different. In that instance, the previous government’s civil unions Bill would have been seen as giving something, where there was nothing. However, what is happening now is that the Government is giving something that’s secondary, the right to a domestic partnership, and taking away something primary, the right to marriage.” Mr Attride-Stirling added: “The fact that no country in the world has ever done this should give us pause. We will look foolish and oppressive, at a time when we can ill-afford this, in the light of everything going on and the spotlight shining on us for other reasons.” He said the May judgment declared all same-sex marriages involving Bermudians were lawful, whether here or overseas, if they took place after the Human Rights Act was amended in 2013 to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Mr Attride-Stirling said: “There are a bunch of marriages that have taken place here since the judgment. But there is a much larger number of marriages that have taken place overseas since 2013. Those earlier marriages were effectively declared to be lawful by the judgment and this Bill does not recognize that. It protects those marriages that took place after the judgment but it does not protect the earlier marriages that took place overseas. That’s a serious technical problem as it is rendering lawful marriages unlawful, that is, taking away crystallized rights, which would be unconstitutional." Deputy Opposition leader Leah Scott said the One Bermuda Alliance opposed the Bill and that its 12 MPs would vote against it on party lines. She said: “It won’t be a conscience vote.” David Burt, the Premier, told The Royal Gazette in July that his opposition to civil unions had “not changed”. He told Bermudian students in London last week: “We are making sure we carry out our platform promise that same-sex couples and heterosexual couples have similar legal protection under the law.”
2017. December 6. An attempt to introduce domestic partnerships for gay couples is marriage by another name, pressure group Preserve Marriage said last night. The organisation claimed that Minister of Home Affairs Walton Brown’s Bill to create legal recognition for same-sex couples would open the door to full marriage in the future. Melvyn Bassett, chairman of Preserve Marriage, said: “To legislate against same-sex marriage and simultaneously introduce civil unions under the guise of a Domestic Partnership Bill is an introduction of a parallel form of marriage.” He claimed: “The public is well aware that civil unions often give legal footing to the ‘separate but equal’ argument that has led to same-sex marriage rulings in the court in other jurisdictions.” Dr Bassett said: “To avoid a future legal challenge to Minister Walton Brown’s 2017 Domestic Partnership Bill, an appropriate amendment could be made that would offer a provision of legal recognition and benefits to all non-married persons and can be applied to a variety of relationships. “Such an amendment would grant legal authority and rights to a designated person or registrant which would include, but not require, an intimate relationship.” Dr Bassett added: “The legislation under these circumstances would not be seen as parallel to the Marriage Act and would less likely be used as a basis to appeal to the courts for same-sex marriage.” The group added that it was “pleased” that the Government was “moving forward with its commitment to uphold marriage as the union between a man and a woman”. But Dr Bassett accused the ruling Progressive Labour Party of stealing the former One Bermuda Alliance government’s “rejected Civil Unions Bill” of last year and giving it a new title. He claimed that the PLP had “campaigned on a platform to eliminate same-sex marriage”. Dr Bassett added that it was “perplexing why the Government ... is now introducing same-sex marriage in a different format”. Preserve Marriage conceded that by international human rights law, the Government “was obliged to provide same-sex couples with legal benefits”. Dr Bassett said: “The Government can legislate these benefits and still maintain its election promise by amending the current Bill.” The Supreme Court ruled in May that the island’s Registrar General could not reject a gay couple’s application to marry in Bermuda. Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons said that the common law definition of marriage as between a man and a woman was “inconsistent with the provisions of the Human Rights Act as they constitute deliberate different treatment on the basis of sexual orientation”. The decision paved the way for same-sex marriage on the island. The first same-sex couple made their vows at the Registry General’s office less than a month later.
2017. November 25. Walton Brown, the Minister of Home Affairs, shrugged off criticism yesterday as he tabled a Bill to give gay couples a watered-down option of “domestic partnerships” instead of marriage. Mr Brown, who said the Domestic Partnerships Bill would be debated by MPs on December 8, responded to accusations that the consultation process to discuss it was too short. He insisted that the three-week consultation period was “adequate” and revealed that the ministry had received more than 3,000 e-mails. Mr Brown was speaking after the Human Rights Commission on Monday said the issue should have been given “a longer consultation period to allow for comprehensive analysis and feedback”. Mr Brown maintained that changes had been made to the draft Act as a result of the consultation process. He told The Royal Gazette: “There are changes in the wording that have been made after the consultation process. For example, the word ‘celebrant’ has been replaced by domestic partnership officer. There have also been some technical changes, while the Act now also identifies the date from which overseas marriages will be recognized, which has implications going forward.” Mr Brown said the Act was designed to extend a range of legal benefits to same-sex couples, “in fact more so than they have under current legislation. We are at this point legislatively because we have a rift in our community between two competing positions — one is in support of same-sex marriage, the other is fundamentally opposed to it and they view marriage between a man and a woman. The immediate political consequence is that there was a very real likelihood that a Private Member’s Bill would have been tabled in Parliament which would have outlawed same-sex marriage and afforded no rights whatsoever to same-sex couples. The majority of MPs would have supported that Bill and we would have been in a position that was fundamentally contrary to what is currently in place.” Mr Brown said that the Government had taken “leadership” to ensure that same-sex couples had their legal rights protected. He added: “What we have before us today represents a series of amendments to the proposed legislation as a result of a consultative process. We believe this is the ideal way forward at this time and we hope that the Bermuda public will at some point come to fully understand and appreciate the steps which this government has taken.” He added: “What this Bill does is address the silences in the current legal framework.”
2017. November 20. A human rights watchdog is warning that the passage of the Domestic Partnership Act will remove rights from same-sex couples and potentially make their unions unrecognizable overseas. In a statement released this morning, the Human Rights Commission said that while the proposed Act makes a “sincere effort” to recognize same-sex unions, it was disappointed that the Act was introduced after case law had already legalized same-sex marriage. It added: “This means that the proposed legislation is a de facto removal of rights from same-sex couples by relegating their unions to a separate category which may not be recognized abroad. This is particularly important given the extent to which Bermudians travel abroad for vacation and for medical reasons. Moreover, a key part of our tourism product as a wedding destination would be undermined by the proposed change.” The organisation called for a longer consultation period on “controversial issues” for “comprehensive analysis and feedback from the public and other stakeholders”. Public debates, the HRC said, should be held at neutral venues — such as schools and government buildings — rather than at religious institutions where people might feel intimidated. The organisation added that it was “unhappy with the political reality in Bermuda where such a proposal is necessary to avoid rights being stripped away completely by legislation such as the Human Rights Amendment Act proposed by Junior Minister of Finance Wayne Furbert”. The Commission said that it recognized “many” in the community were “strongly against” same-sex marriage, in some cases due to religious and moral beliefs. It added: “We also recognize that there are sectors of our religious community that are supportive of same-sex marriage and the public debate has been caricatured to ignore this fact. Everyone has a right to hold beliefs opposing same-sex marriage so long as they do not incite harm or promote hate through their speech or actions. However, individuals have a right to be treated equally and be protected from discrimination regardless of how unpopular such rights are and how small the number of people who hold those rights may be.” The Act, the HRC said, offered the ability for heterosexual and same-sex couples to form legal partnerships which would “afford them most of the rights afforded to traditional marriages”. However, there are significant differences, the HRC said. For example, under the Domestic Partnership Act, only people 18 years and older can enter into a domestic partnership, whereas under the Matrimonial Causes Act, people between 16 and 18 years old can marry with parental consent. As well, under the Domestic Partnership Act, no ability is provided to dissolve a union based on the adultery of a partner, unlike under the Matrimonial Causes Act where adultery is grounds for divorce. The HRC said it had also raised “less material issues” with Walton Brown, Minister of Home Affairs. Mr Brown unveiled the proposed legislation earlier this month. The draft Bill came six months after a Supreme Court ruling paved the way for same-sex couples to marry in Bermuda. There have been six same-sex marriages to date in Bermuda. Seven banns have been posted, and a maritime same-sex marriage is pending. The HRC said while it applauded Mr Brown’s “intentions and genuine effort to provide protection for and recognition of same-sex unions” it was “dismayed by the fact that he feels motivated to do so under perceived threat by other members of the House who wish to remove already established rights”. The HRC added: “The world is watching. If we are truly to embrace the progressive mantle, we must protect everyone from discrimination and inequality.”
2017. November 3. New legislation that would replace same-sex marriage with a domestic partnership arrangement has been unveiled by the Bermuda Government. Yesterday, in a statement, Walton Brown, the Minister of Home Affairs, said he was seeking the public’s feedback on the draft Domestic Partnership Bill. “This topic has been a prolonged matter of great division in our country,” Mr Brown said. “The purpose of this public consultation period is to gain feedback from the public on the current draft Bill regarding domestic partnerships and answer any questions that anyone might have. Stakeholder groups have already been informed as we seek to move forward in a collaborative way.” The government statement added: “The Bill will essentially replace same-sex marriage with a domestic partnership arrangement which can be entered into by both same-sex and heterosexual couples. It should be noted that all same-sex couples who are already married will not have this designation taken away from them.” The new Progressive Labour Party draft Bill comes six months after a Supreme Court ruling paved the way for same-sex couples to marry in Bermuda. Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé, Greg DeRoche, embarked on their fight for equal rights after the Registrar-General rejected their application to marry. The couple were represented in court by lawyer Mark Pettingill who last night said: “Clearly an existing right could not be removed but there are other issues of law that will need to be sensibly considered.” Mr Godwin and Mr DeRoche argued that the Human Rights Act took primacy in protecting their right to marry and won a landmark legal ruling in May. Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons said: “The common law definition of marriage, that marriage is the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman, and its reflection in the Marriage Act section 24 and the Matrimonial Causes Act section 15 (c) are inconsistent with the provisions of the Human Rights Act as they constitute deliberate different treatment on the basis of sexual orientation. On the facts of this case the applicants were discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation when the Registrar refused to process their notice of intended marriage. Same-sex couples denied access to marriage laws and entry into the institution of marriage have been denied what the Human Rights Commission terms a “basket of goods”, that is rights of a spouse contained in numerous enactments of Parliament.” The PLP’s election platform stated that the party accepted that same-sex couples should have similar legal benefits as heterosexual couples, save for marriage, and that the party would introduce legislation to achieve this aim. In August Mr Brown reiterated the PLP’s stance on the issue. “Our position is that same-sex couples should have all the legal rights of heterosexual couples, save for marriage,” Mr Brown said. The draft Bill will be posted on the Government website gov.bm for the public to view as well as on the Government’s Facebook Page Members of the public can send comments and questions to email@example.com There will be a two week public consultation period, which began yesterday and will end on November 15. The ministry will host two town hall meetings on the Bill. The first will take place on November 8 at 5.30pm at the BIU Building; and the other on November 9 at 5.30pm at the St Paul AME Church Hall.
2017. October 21. Junior Minister of Finance Wayne Furbert has refused to say when he will retable his Parliamentary Bill to outlaw same-sex marriage. It is the second time Mr Furbert has dodged questions on the status of his Private Member’s Bill. Mr Furbert said shortly after the Progressive Labour Party election win in July that he planned to retable the Bill in September — and expected it to pass. But the proposed legislation, which Mr Furbert said was a contributing factor in the PLP election landslide, has still to be tabled in the House of Assembly. The same Bill was passed by MPs last year, but blocked in Senate. If it passed in its current form, it would not need the approval of the upper house to become law. But The Royal Gazette reported in September that due to a constitutional technicality, senators might be able to again turn down the bill in the Senate. Section 38 (2) of the Bermuda Constitution allows Bills passed by the House of Assembly in “two successive sessions” to be presented to the Governor for assent, even if rejected by the Senate in each of those sessions. But lawyer and former Attorney-General Mark Pettingill said at the time: “The Constitution refers to two successive sessions of the House. I think on any reading of it, it is arguable that this is the third successive session.” Mr Furbert was given the position of Junior Minister of Finance earlier this month — replacing Vance Campbell. Mr Furbert had no portfolio until David Burt, the Premier, made the switch.
2017. September 28. The Government has been ordered to pay costs to the couple who won the right for gay people to marry in Bermuda. Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons ruled that all of Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche’s legal costs should be paid in relation to their claim that they were discriminated against under the Human Rights Act when the Registrar-General refused to post their wedding banns. The charity Preserve Marriage, which opposes same-sex marriage and was an intervener on the side of the Government in the civil proceedings, will not have to pay costs. Mrs Justice Simmons said the group had a “genuine interest in the case, they were invited to intervene, and the case involved quasi-constitutional issues regarding fundamental rights”. She added: “In all the circumstances, it seems to me that this is an appropriate case where costs should not be awarded against PMBL.” The Human Rights Commission, an intervener on the side of the successful plaintiffs, did not win costs from the Government on the basis that it is funded from the public purse so any cost order would “achieve no more than a paper trail of accounting procedures”. Mark Pettingill, who represented Mr Godwin and Mr DeRoche, told The Royal Gazette: “Obviously, I am not surprised that we were awarded costs. I do find it disappointing that Preserve Marriage, which was well funded, effectively got off the hook, but given their status as an intervener I am certainly not shocked.” Preserve Marriage has applied to appeal Mrs Justice Simmons’s landmark May 5 ruling in favor of Mr Godwin and Mr DeRoche, as has a separate group led by former politician Maxwell Burgess. Mr Pettingill said: “I do not think it will be as easy for them to avoid security for costs should they endeavor to move forward with some form of appeal.” The latest ruling from the judge included the final wording of an order she was asked by the plaintiffs to make regarding the rights of gay couples to wed. In her initial judgment, Mrs Justice Simmons made a draft order declaring certain sections of the Marriage Act 1944 inoperative where it referred to “man” and “wife” and marriage as being between “one man and one woman”, as well as a section of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1974, which declared marriage void unless the “parties are not respectively male and female”. She proposed “reformulating” the Marriage Act to reflect the fact that same-sex couples were entitled to be married under that piece of legislation. The judge’s final order does not suggest rewording the law. Mrs Justice Simmons said in her September 22 ruling: “It is sufficient, in my view, and entirely consistent with my written judgment, as well as section 29 of the Human Rights Act, to simply make an order declaring the offending provisions of law to be inoperative and to provide the reason for it without any attempt on my part to reformulate the provisions.” Lawyer Grant Spurling, who represented the plaintiffs alongside Mr Pettingill, said the latest judgment did not change at all the “practical application” of the initial ruling and gay couples would still be able to tie the knot. The Government, Preserve Marriage and the Human Rights Commission did not respond to requests for comment by press time last night.
2017. September 28. Cabinet minister Kim Wilson is representing same-sex marriage opponents in their bid to overturn a landmark ruling which allowed gay couples to marry in Bermuda. Ms Wilson, the full-time Minister of Health, is the attorney of record for a group which filed notice of appeal on June 15 against the Supreme Court judgment. She is representing the petitioners in her private capacity as a lawyer at Wilson & Co law firm. Ms Wilson said last night that her “involvement to date simply involved the filing of a Notice of Change of Attorney”. A Ministry of Health spokeswoman told this newspaper: “Any possible involvement in the case would not be as Minister of Health, therefore the Government is not able to comment.” E-mailed questions sent yesterday to David Burt, the Premier, about whether there was the potential for a conflict of interest went unanswered by press time. The civil case which paved the way for same-sex marriages on the island was brought against the Government of Bermuda by gay couple Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche, who claimed the Registrar-General discriminated against them by refusing to post their wedding banns. The Government lost the case, with Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons ruling on May 5 this year that denying same-sex couples the service of marriage was a breach of their human rights. A number of gay couples have since married here. The Government opted not to appeal the ruling but Preserve Marriage, a charity which opposes same-sex marriage and was an intervener in the court proceedings, is attempting to do so. A separate group led by former politician Maxwell Burgess, which supports Preserve Marriage’s aims, is also seeking to appeal the ruling. The notice of appeal for that group — described as the “second appellants” — was filed by lawyer Rick Woolridge, of Phoenix Law Chambers. The notice said marriage was defined in common law as being between a man and a woman and the judgment offended the beliefs of those who upheld that definition. It said the “cultural shift caused by the judgment was so offensive to the culture and custom of the significant proportion of the community” who voted against same-sex marriage in last year’s referendum and would erode the “custom of the island”. Ms Wilson filed her notice to replace Mr Woolridge as lawyer for the second appellants on July 7, before the General Election. Last year, she voted in favor of her Progressive Labour Party colleague Wayne Furbert’s failed parliamentary bid to restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples. It is understood that leave to appeal has yet to be granted to the petitioners.
2017. September 15. Senators may get the chance to make or break Wayne Furbert’s Bill to reverse the legalization of gay marriage, according to lawyers interested in the draft law. Mark Pettingill and Rod Attride-Stirling, who argued the case that led to same-sex marriage becoming legal, told The Royal Gazette it was not certain the Bill could be presented to the Governor for assent without the approval of Senate. A constitutional technicality may mean it has to get permission from the island’s 11 senators, according to Mr Pettingill, while Mr Attride-Stirling said any amendments to the original Bill would also require it to go back before Senate. Mr Pettingill said it would be a conscience vote for the five Progressive Labour Party and three One Bermuda Alliance senators, while the three independents would “have to look honestly at the human rights law”. He added: “It’s not a shoo-in. It’s not a PLP Bill.” Mr Furbert’s Private Members’ Bill was first passed in the House of Assembly in July last year, but was rejected in Senate by six votes to five. It was retabled in the next session of Parliament, but was not debated by MPs before Parliament was dissolved three months ago. Section 38 (2) of the Bermuda Constitution allows Bills passed by the House of Assembly in “two successive sessions” to be presented to the Governor for assent, even if rejected by the Senate in each of those sessions. But Mr Pettingill claimed government backbencher Mr Furbert could no longer benefit from that constitutional clause. The former attorney-general said: “The Constitution refers to two successive sessions of the House. I think on any reading of it, it is arguable that this is the third successive session. The Bill originally passed on July 8, 2016, so that would be the first session in which it was laid. The second session, therefore, would be the session which ended in June this year. The current session would be the third. The Bill is bound to go back to the Senate. From the time he first laid the Bill, we are now into the third successive session.” The former OBA politician added: “Were the Speaker to not really look very carefully at that, that might be subject to a constitutional challenge. The issue could be raised that the procedure in Parliament, in not sending the Bill to the Senate, was unconstitutional.” Separate to that is the issue of whether Mr Furbert will retable the exact same Bill that was given the green light by MPs. The legislation, the Human Rights Amendment Act 2016, was to amend the Human Rights Act 1981 “to preserve the institution of marriage” by restricting it to opposite-sex couples. Mr Attride-Stirling said Section 38 (2) of the Constitution, which does away with the need for Senate approval, would apply only to an identical Bill. He explained: “Under the Constitution, if any amendments are made, they will have to go through the whole process again.” Since Mr Furbert’s Bill was approved by MPs, a number of gay couples have tied the knot in Bermuda, in the wake of Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons’s landmark Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality. Mr Attride-Stirling said the status of those marriages was not addressed by Mr Furbert’s Bill, so the proposed legislation would need amending. “The legislation should have a grandfathering clause to protect the existing marriages. Is it his intention to make those marriages void? Whatever his intent, there is now a question mark over the legislation, which must be clarified.” The lawyer said the Furbert Bill would also create potential problems for those married gay couples if they wanted to divorce. Mr Attride-Stirling added: “There would be restrictions on their ability to access divorce without other amendments to the law. They wouldn’t, for example, be able to get a no-contest divorce after two years apart because the law makes reference only to husbands and wives in that regard. There are dozens of references in our legislation to husbands and wives. If the Furbert Bill is to be retabled, it would require some further drafting.” Mr Pettingill and Mr Attride-Stirling questioned last week whether John Rankin, the Governor, would sign off on the Bill if it made it through Parliament. A Government House spokesman said on Wednesday: “The Governor is unavailable for comment. The Governor will continue to act in accordance with his responsibilities under the Constitution.” The six senators who rejected Mr Furbert’s Bill labeled it regressive and an infringement on Bermuda’s human rights laws. Only one of those, independent James Jardine, remains in the Upper Chamber. Fellow independent Joan Dillas-Wright voted in favour. The OBA senate leader, Nandi Outerbridge, voted against the Bill in the House of Assembly when she was an MP.
2017. September 8. Wayne Furbert’s bid to reverse the legalization of gay marriage could put the United Kingdom in breach of its international obligations, according to lawyer Mark Pettingill. Mr Pettingill, one of the lawyers who successfully litigated the case that led to same-sex marriage becoming legal, predicted the Governor may withhold assent for the Private Member’s Bill expected to be tabled by Mr Furbert in Parliament today. The proposed legislation seeks to restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples and, if approved, would make Bermuda the first country in the world to do an about-turn on the issue. On the eve of the new government’s first Throne Speech, in which it may outline its plans for a gay marriage alternative, Mr Pettingill said: “The British Government is faced with a very significant issue. Mr Furbert’s particular amendment would put the UK in breach of its international obligations. The Governor, in assenting, has to look at the position.” Bermuda’s Constitution, under section 35, enables the Governor to “reserve for Her Majesty’s pleasure” any Bill inconsistent with the obligations of the British Government towards any other international organisation. One such body is the European Court of Human Rights, which has ruled there must be state recognition and protection for same-sex couples, although not necessarily through marriage. Mr Pettingill claimed approval for Mr Furbert’s Bill would put the UK in breach of that, even if Bermuda had plans for an alternative framework giving the same rights as marriage. “The problem with that is that it’s already been done. The framework is in place. People have married under a certain scheme. You can’t go ahead and say ‘we are going to remove that scheme’ and later try to impose another scheme. You are going to leave a void in the law.” Mr Pettingill said the Governor, in deciding whether to give assent, would also consider whether the Bill was consistent with the Constitution, which gives every person in Bermuda the right to freedom of expression, freedom of association and the protection of the law. Fellow lawyer Rod Attride-Stirling, who represented the Human Rights Commission in the same-sex marriage Supreme Court case, agreed the Bill could create legal problems, particularly regarding same-sex couples who have married here since the May 5 ruling. “If you look at the Bill, on its face, it would render all same-sex marriages void,” he said. “It doesn’t include a grandfathering clause to protect the existing ones. I would be surprised if the Governor were to sign it. The Bill in its present form takes away crystallized rights retroactively. That is unconstitutional which makes it legally inappropriate for the Governor to sign it.” Same-sex marriage opponent Charles Jeffers said it would be wrong for the Governor to act against “the will of the people” and refuse assent. “I don’t care what they do in Britain,” he said. “I do not believe that a governor should be taking a position that’s contrary to the views of our Parliament and to the people whom they represent. I have relatives, I have friends who are gay and I am certainly not going to shun them because they are gay. But I am not sure this is a human rights issue.” LGBT civil rights organisation Human Rights Campaign confirmed yesterday that if Mr Furbert’s Bill became law, Bermuda would be the first country to reverse a decision to allow same-sex marriage. Ty Cobb, director of HRC Global, said: “To do so… would be similar to what transpired here in the United States in California — where marriage equality began and was taken away through a ballot measure that was ultimately overturned by the US Supreme Court. This created mass chaos and harm, especially for legally wed same-sex couples and their families.”
2017. September 8. A gay couple set to wed today in Bermuda asked the “vocal minority” who oppose same-sex marriage to put aside their “fear and fundamentalism” and be “open and kind” to all their fellow citizens. Bermudian Bruce Whayman and his fiancé, Roland Maertens, who live together in Australia, where same-sex marriage is not allowed, have chosen to come to Mr Whayman’s home country to tie the knot at the Registry General’s office in front of family and friends. Although the marriage will not be recognized in Australia, the couple told The Royal Gazette it was important to them to officially commit to one another and take advantage of the “courageous decision” by Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons, which legalized gay marriage here on May 5. Mr Whayman and Mr Maertens, the first gay couple to make their Bermuda wedding plans public, want to send a message to those trying to have Mrs Justice Simmons’s decision reversed, including government backbencher Wayne Furbert and the charity Preserve Marriage, as well as support young gay Bermudians. Mr Whayman, 50, said: “People need to see that we are people. We are here, we are just like you. We want to get married here. People need to start talking to each other, particularly the religious faction in our society.” The organic food truck owner added: “Just live and let live, really. That’s what it comes down to. You have to be kind to one another. We all have to live in the same place. We are all going to see each other fairly regularly, I would imagine. Why would you make things so awkward for yourself and for other people? Bermudians have this wonderful ability to come together in a crisis and something like this, which is not a crisis at all, is clearly dividing or there is an intent to divide the community on such a trivial issue. “It’s an important issue for us. It’s not a huge issue for the country.” His 48-year-old fiancé, who works for a travel agency, added: “The first countries that changed the law on gay marriage were Holland and Belgium and no doubt there was a more liberal climate. But there were conservative elements there that will always remain conservative, but society hasn’t collapsed. Everything continues as normal. We are not a threat to anybody. It’s just a little bit of a pity that people can’t be open and kind, as their religions profess to be. We remain law-abiding citizens, taxpayers, we buy products in everyone’s stores. I was in the army. We are good civil citizens. In a secular state, we should have the same rights and responsibilities. We are not lesser citizens.” The couple met a year-and-a-half ago in Queensland and decided to get married after Mr Maertens, who has dual Australian/Belgian citizenship, proposed. They originally intended to wed in Brussels, but the paperwork proved time-consuming because documents needed translation. Mr Whayman, who left Bermuda in 1995 but still has family here, said Mrs Justice Simmons made her ruling in the case against the Government brought by Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé Greg DeRoche as the two were looking at their options. He added: “Charles-Etta Simmons made that courageous decision; she did the right thing. I thought, if she’s gone out on a limb to do that for people, we really should think about doing it there.” He described how he encountered homophobia on the island as a young man and left because he wanted to be free to explore his sexuality. “Mr Whayman said: “You can’t do that in Bermuda - leaving was the best thing I ever did in my life, for sure. But there are a lot of other people who live here who won’t or don’t have those opportunities.” The couple said they believed the majority of people in Bermuda did not have a strong opinion on same-sex marriage — a view borne out by last year’s referendum on the issue, when less than 47 per cent of the electorate voted. The non-binding poll revealed that 32 per cent of the electorate was against same-sex marriage and 15 per cent was in favour. In Australia, the Government is to hold a nationwide non-binding postal vote on the issue next week, with critics describing it as a costly, divisive poll. Mr Whayman said a “vocal minority” there and here was targeting gay people and trying to impose its religious beliefs on the whole of society. Mr Maertens added: “It’s fear and fundamentalism and not the spirit of forgiving Christianity, as I understand it.” They couple said they hoped to encourage young gay Bermudians by talking publicly about their wedding and prompt MPs, who return to Parliament today, to think before voting on Mr Furbert’s Private Member’s Bill, which seeks to restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples. Mr Whayman added: “We are looking forward to tomorrow — a very auspicious day. It’s so important for Roland and I to have this interview so that younger people that are coming along after us can read about us and maybe have some courage if they want to do the same thing and be free.”
2017. September 6. Government backbencher Wayne Furbert has backed out of a meeting with a young Bermudian who won the right for gay people to marry on the island. Mr Furbert was to meet with Winston Godwin-DeRoche and others from the LGBT community after the 27-year-old wrote an open letter to him on Facebook, challenging him on his parliamentary bid to restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples. Mr Furbert replied online that he would be “more than happy” to sit down for coffee. A get-together was arranged for yesterday morning, as reported in The Royal Gazette last week, but Mr Godwin-DeRoche told this newspaper the Progressive Labour Party politician cancelled over the weekend via e-mail. “No real reason [was given], unfortunately,” he said. “He mentioned the article. I assume he doesn’t want the attention from it. I sent him a message asking him to strongly reconsider and that I believe meeting is something we can all benefit from and he has yet to respond.” Mr Furbert declined to comment when contacted by this newspaper yesterday. “That’s my decision,” he said. He also refused to discuss the Private Member’s Bill he is expected to bring to the House of Assembly when it resumes on Friday, which will seek to reverse the landmark May 5 Supreme Court ruling which legalized gay marriage in Bermuda. Home affairs minister Walton Brown has said legislation will be tabled to protect the legal rights of same-sex couples if Mr Furbert’s Bill passes and becomes law. Mr Brown said it would contain elements similar to the draft Civil Union Bill 2016, which was circulated for “consultation only” by the last government, but “obviously would not be called that”.
2017. September 2. Preserve Marriage’s reinstatement as a charity has re-ignited questions over its funding, but Bermuda’s laws do not require the information to be disclosed. The group, which is against same-sex marriage and civil unions, has never revealed its financial backers and its lawyer told a court hearing this year that some “expressly” did not want their names “exposed”. Bermudian journalist Clare O’Connor, who works for Forbes, raised the question last week in a Facebook comment. She claimed that an unnamed “prominent Bermuda-based business leader” was “funding the Preserve Marriage bigots” and said “his shareholders have a right to know”. And one objector to the organisation’s application to have its charitable status renewed this year asked the island’s Charity Commissioners to examine financial support for the group. The objector, whose identity was withheld under public access to information rules, wrote: “They are bringing hatefulness into Bermuda and bad publicity. Where are they getting money from to support them? Was this ever investigated?” Preserve Marriage — like other charities — is not obliged to reveal the sources of its funding. It an offence for charities to fail to disclose funds received from public, government or private sources under the 2014 Charities Act, but the legislation does not require those sources to be identified. It is understood that the Charity Commissioners, when considering applications, do not usually request such information unless there is cause for concern. Preserve Marriage successfully applied for charitable status in April last year. But its application to have the status renewed was denied in May by the Charity Commissioners in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling which made gay marriage legal. The commissioners gave three reasons for the refusal, which were that the group’s purposes:
The organisation appealed against the decision and home affairs minister Walton Brown upheld the appeal this week. In a letter to Preserve Marriage, the minister said advocating for marriage to be defined as a union between a man and a woman had not been declared unlawful and he saw no difference between the charitable purposes or primary objectives set out in the group’s original status application and its renewal application. Preserve Marriage filed a financial statement of its accounts and an annual report with the Registrar-General earlier this year, in accordance with the Charities Act. But the documents, seen by The Royal Gazette, provide no clue as to who is funding the charity. According to its statement of accounts, Preserve Marriage’s net assets at the end of 2016 were $1,020. Donations totaled $165,054 last year and the group spent $155,330 on community education and $8,704 on supporting activities. Preserve Marriage said some of its donors had given more than $5,000 — though it had not received any “unusual or substantial one-off donations” — and that it had a well-established relationship with its donors. Several of Preserve Marriage’s leading members are church figures, such as deputy chairman Gary Simons, a pastor with Cornerstone Bible Fellowship, and treasurer Mark Hall, from Word of Life Fellowship. Some funding has come from churches and that is likely to include donations from Cornerstone, which suggests its parishioners pay a tithe — one-tenth of their income — to the church. Preserve Marriage was involved in the Supreme Court case earlier this year which led to the landmark ruling allowing gay people to marry. The successful plaintiffs, gay couple Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche, sought legal costs against the group and its third-party funders. But Preserve Marriage’s lawyer Delroy Duncan told the court: “You have a limited liability company which was a charity that people gave to, some under a cloak of confidentiality, some expressly saying ‘we do not want our names exposed. Some of those funders include churches and members of the community.” And Mr Duncan described the funders as “a lot of people throughout this community”. Mr Godwin and Mr DeRoche are no longer seeking costs from the third-party funders. The judgment in favour of gay marriage is under appeal by both Preserve Marriage and a separate group which is supportive of its aims. The separate group is led by former MP Maxwell Burgess and the notice of appeal filed with the court by him included a list of “second appellants” which featured the signatures of more than 8,000 Preserve Marriage supporters. Those who signed consented to their names being included as appellants and they could be held liable for legal costs if the appeal fails. No one from Preserve Marriage could be contacted for comment.
2017. September 1. A young Bermudian man who won the right for gay people to marry on the island is to meet the government MP behind a bid to have the decision reversed. Winston Godwin-DeRoche, whose successful challenge to the law in the Supreme Court led to a landmark ruling in May, posted an open letter to the Progressive Labour Party backbencher Wayne Furbert on Facebook on Wednesday. Mr Godwin-DeRoche asked Mr Furbert how he could “actively work to deny the LGBT community the same rights you were denied and fought for based on your skin colour in the 1960s”. The letter has resulted in a meeting between the two men next Tuesday. Other members of the LGBT community are expected to attend. Meanwhile, British media have picked up on the possibility that Bermuda could become the first country in the world to “re-ban same-sex marriage” if Mr Furbert’s Private Member’s Bill to restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples is successful. The Pink News and Gay Times both ran stories this week on the topic. Gay Times wrote: “If same-sex marriage is re-banned in the country, it would be a massive problem for cruise liners in the area, who have already taken bookings for weddings.” Bermuda Tourism Authority spokesman Glenn Jones said: “The Bermuda Tourism Authority markets Bermuda as hospitable, warm and a place welcoming to all people. We hope Bermuda’s policies live up to that promise.” Mr Godwin-DeRoche, 27, whose letter is printed in full in the Op-Ed section on page 5 today, told The Royal Gazette he reached out to Mr Furbert in the hope of getting “just a response on a human level”. He said: “At the end of the day, we are both black Bermudians. Obviously, he’s experienced a lot more of the racial aspect of things, growing up in the time period he did.” But he added: “It’s comparing apples to apples when you compare race to the same-sex marriage issue. It’s completely the same issue.” Mr Godwin-DeRoche brought his civil case with his Canadian fiancé, Greg, with whom he has since tied the knot in Canada. The lawsuit led to a ruling by Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons that legalized same-sex marriage. The decision is now being appealed by the charity Preserve Marriage and its supporters, including Mr Furbert. In his letter to Mr Furbert, Mr Godwin-DeRoche wrote that he and the politician were probably similar people with opposing views on life and that such differences were fine but said “problems arise when we are told our differences, the very things that make us who we are, make us second-class citizens. Problems arise when we are told you cannot have the same rights because you are gay”. He added: “I would like you to pause and replace the word ‘gay’ with ‘black’ or, quite frankly, with any race, nationality or ‘difference’ that you are born with and have no control over.” Mr Godwin-DeRoche wrote: “At one time, blacks had to also fight for their rights to be heard and recognized. The race issues faced in the 1960s [and earlier] are the gay rights issues we are facing at present. I am certain you, as well as the larger Bermudian community, are aware of what it has taken for race relations to get to the point of where they are now, including the riots of 1977, which we were so recently reminded of. Experiencing what you have, how can you actively work to deny the LGBT community the same rights you were denied and fought for based on your skin colour in the 1960s?” He said he and his fiancé took the decision to take legal action after they were denied the right to marry here. Mr Godwin-DeRoche added that their decision was based on the same principles the black community believed in before desegregation. “We all deserve equal rights and protection under the law, including marriage. Introducing this Private Member’s Bill will not only effectively exclude same-sex couples from the right to marriage, which you so enjoy, it will also send a message to the world about what sort of country Bermuda can be. Should this Bill be passed, Bermuda would be the only country to grant same-sex marriage and have it revoked.” He finished by asking Mr Furbert to meet him for coffee and “answer why does same-sex marriage truly offend you”. He wrote: “I consciously chose to leave religion and the Bible out of this letter. Please do me the same courtesy because, when it comes to human rights, religion has no bearing.” Mr Furbert responded online: “Hi Winston, I am not going to reply via this media but would be more than happy to sit down with you for coffee. Let’s do it ASAP.” Greg Godwin-DeRoche then chipped in and told Mr Furbert: “I don’t think I will be available to be in Bermuda but if I am, I will be there with my husband. I would love to learn more about your stance on discrimination. I don’t feel there is a logical response to discriminating one group of people, yet upholding laws and values for all or any other group. Discrimination is just that, regardless if it is race, gender, religion or sexuality.”
2017. August 30. Preserve Marriage has become a charity again after home affairs minister Walton Brown overturned a decision to refuse it charitable status. The group, which opposes same-sex marriage and civil unions, first gained charitable status in 2016 but had been unsuccessful when applying again this year. The Charity Commissioners, according to minutes of meetings obtained by The Royal Gazette under public access to information, decided not to renew the group’s charitable status, partially on the grounds that its purposes were “unlawful” in light of a court decision allowing gay people to wed here. Other reasons given were that its purposes caused “more detriment than benefit” by appearing to “single out and victimize” people based on their sexual orientation, and were purely political. Preserve Marriage appealed to the Minister of Home Affairs and Mr Brown found in its favour this week. He told the organisation in a letter: “In reviewing the initial application for registration as a charity, which was successful in 2016, in comparison to your 2017 re-registration application, I see no differences with regard to your charitable purposes or primary objectives. You have provided enough information to allay all of the concerns which the commissioners used to make the determination to deny the re-registration. It can be agreed that with the recent change in law declaring same-sex marriage as legal on May 5, 2017, advocating for marriage to be defined as a union between a man and a woman has not been declared unlawful. That change in law is the only change that has occurred with respect to your initial successful application and your re-registration application. I am satisfied with your additional submissions and hereby overturn the Charity Commissioners’ decision, therefore the organisation is now granted re-registration of charitable status.” The decision means Preserve Marriage can begin soliciting donations from the public again to further its stated aim of having marriage in Bermuda “defined and upheld as a special union ordained by God between a man and a woman”. Since the May 5 Supreme Court ruling, gay marriage has been legal on the island and several same-sex couples are reported to have tied the knot. But government MP Wayne Furbert plans to reintroduce a private member’s Bill in Parliament next month to restrict it again to opposite-sex couples. This newspaper can reveal that Preserve Marriage’s application to renew its charitable status earlier this year prompted 20 letters of objection from members of the public, as well as 12 letters in support. The letters were sent to the Charity Commissioners as they deliberated over the application and have now been released under Pati, with the identities of the senders redacted. One objector wrote: “I am a married Bermudian and father. I object to Preserve Marriage being granted charitable status. The objectives of Preserve Marriage are political, discriminatory and harmful to our society and harmful to our tourism industry.” Another said: “I sincerely hope that the Charities Commission denies the continuation of charitable status for the Preserve Marriage group. This group does not meet the Commission’s objectives to educate the public, increase the public trust in charities, nor does it have a public benefit. What it does is the complete opposite: it promotes fearmongering and hate. The religious dogma of one group should not be forced on the entire community.” A Preserve Marriage supporter wrote: “I fully support their beliefs and ideals that marriage should remain between a man and a woman and they have been a public benefit and instrumental as our collective ‘voice’ for the many thousands of Bermudians who feel this way.” Another said: “I am, and always will be, against gay marriage and will support any group that opposes bringing that here to Bermuda. If these people have to get married, they can go elsewhere to do it, not here. The people have spoken loud and clear that we do not want it here, simple as that.” A press release from the Ministry of Home Affairs said Preserve Marriage was denied charitable status on May 23 and submitted an appeal on June 12. “As is the normal process, the appeal is first reviewed by the technical officers who assess whether the appeal meets the requirements of the legislation and then makes a recommendation to the Minister. The Minister ultimately accepted the recommendation of the technical review of the appeal.” It was not possible to reach anyone from Preserve Marriage for comment yesterday.
2017. August 28. The Government will draft legislation protecting the legal rights of same-sex couples if a private member’s Bill to outlaw gay marriage is passed. Acknowledging there were a lot of “ifs” before that point was reached, Walton Brown, the Minister of Home Affairs, maintained the Progressive Labour Party would stick to its election platform, which promised same-sex couples the same legal rights as heterosexual couples, except marriage. Mr Brown also suggested that debates in the House of Assembly should not go on past midnight because the “quality of the discussion went downhill” after that point but instead should end at a mutually agreeable time arranged by party whips. Government MP Wayne Furbert reiterated last month that he would bring his Bill to outlaw gay marriage back to Parliament in September and said he expected it to pass. “Our position is that same-sex couples should have all the legal rights of heterosexual couples, save for marriage,” Mr Brown said. “If the private member’s Bill is successful, then we will draft and table legislation to ensure that same-sex couples have those rights enshrined in the law. At present there is no need for this to be done due to the ruling by Justice Charles-Etta Simmons.” Mr Brown added: “There already exists a Bill, the Civil Unions Bill, which would have similar elements to what is needed, although it obviously would not be called that. That was an OBA Bill that was distributed to all MPs, but never tabled officially.” MPs will return to the House of Assembly on September 8, with the first order of business being the appointment of the Speaker. Mr Brown described the PLP’s return to Parliament as an “exciting but sobering responsibility”, and maintained that despite the Government’s huge majority the Opposition still had an important role to play. He said: “For those who have committed themselves to public service it is not the raw desire for power that is appealing but the ability to shape the destiny of your country. Parliament works when you have a Government that is challenged by an Opposition. We need to have a robust debate that gives the public some level of insight into the issues. That is how the system works. It is more to do with the quality of debate than the numbers they have — they can still put up a robust Opposition. If they had two it would be an issue, but 12 is enough to provide that level of debate.” Mr Brown told The Royal Gazette that he believed there were areas of Parliamentary procedure that needed to be looked at. “I don’t think we can have a productive debate at 3am. t’s an endurance test rather than about the quality of the debate. After midnight the debate goes downhill. Perhaps there could be a mutually agreed cut-off time between 10pm and midnight that is agreed between the whips. Some of the processes are also inappropriate for a 21st-century Parliament and raise challenges based on the freedoms enshrined in the constitution.”
2017. August 2. Bermuda’s Supreme Court ruling paving the way for same-sex marriage has been adopted by P & O Cruises, now the first British cruise lines to offer the unions, along with Princess Cruises and Cunard. The development, reported online by Cruise Critic, has been taken up by the three divisions of Carnival, which have their ships registered on the island. In a statement, Paul Ludlow, senior vice president of P & O Cruises, stated: “I am delighted that following this much anticipated change in the legalities we are now the first British cruise line to be able to arrange same sex weddings on-board.” P & O’s inability to offer same-sex marriage has generated negative press in the past. Cunard, which switched its ships’ registration from the UK to Bermuda in October 2011 to benefit from regulations here allowing couples to wed at sea, is reportedly offering same-sex marriages from November 2018. In a statement online, Josh Leibowitz, senior vice-president for Cunard North America, said the company was “proud to become among the first cruise lines to offer same-sex marriages at sea. Cunard has brought people together through travel for over 175 years, and we’re proud to mark another milestone in our company’s history as we welcome our first gay marriage booking and many other marriages to come.” Princess Cruises, which has 13 ships registered on the island, issued a statement: “We are currently working on developing a range of services and amenities to meet the needs of same sex couple ceremonies and will release full information on these shortly.”
2017. July 28. Government MP Wayne Furbert will bring his Bill to outlaw gay marriage back to Parliament in September — and he expects it to pass. Mr Furbert told The Royal Gazette that same-sex marriage was a key issue in the General Election, with the Progressive Labour Party’s clear opposition to it, as stated in its manifesto, a factor in its landslide win. He said he would not lobby his party members to support his private member’s Bill, as it would be a vote of conscience, but believed enough of them would be in favour to ensure its safe passage through the House of Assembly. The same Bill passed last year in the House but was blocked in the Senate. This time, if it passes in its current form, it will not need the approval of the Upper Chamber to become law. “I think it has a good chance,” Mr Furbert said. “If you consider who voted before, I kind of have a good feeling. In theory, I think it will go through.” The backbencher tabled his Human Rights Amendment bill in 2016, in an attempt to prevent same-sex couples who wanted to marry from taking advantage of a 2013 amendment to the Human Rights Act, which outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation. His proposed change to the law was to insert a clause into the Human Rights Act to say nothing in it could override the provisions of section 15 (c) of the Matrimonial Causes Act, which deems a marriage void unless between members of the opposite sex. Mr Furbert had earlier tried — and failed — to have the Human Rights Act amendment of 2013 changed to exclude the Matrimonial Causes Act from the reach of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. On July 8 last year, he was successful in getting his Bill passed, with 20 MPs voting in favour: 12 PLP members and 8 OBA. A week later, senators, whose approval was needed, rejected the Bill by six votes to five. Since then, a Supreme Court judge has ruled that denying the service of marriage to same-sex couples is a breach of their human rights and at least one gay couple has tied the knot on the island. Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons said in her judgment that parliamentary transcripts from 2013 showed “it was always accepted by Parliament that the 2013 [HRA] Amendment Act might lead a court to conclude that same-sex marriage was permissible” and that “there were no clear explanations given by the promoters of the [2013 amendment] Bill that the purpose and aim of the amendment was to shut out the possibility of same-sex marriage”. The judge said it was appropriate for the court to declare section 15 (c) of the Matrimonial Causes Act inoperative. Mr Furbert said if his Bill passed for a second time it would send a clear message to the judiciary as to Parliament’s intentions. “Parliament has always been supreme,” he said. “The parliament represents the people, not the judges. They interpret the law.” He suggested his enhanced majority in Hamilton West after the July 18 General Election — he took 65 per cent of the vote, compared to 56 per cent in 2012 — was directly related to same-sex marriage, with the issue also playing a part in his party’s overall massive win. The PLP’s platform said: “We accept that same-sex couples should have similar legal benefits as heterosexual couples, save for marriage, and will introduce legislation to achieve this aim. ”Mr Furbert said: “A lot of people voted with the PLP based on their view. The OBA, under Michael Dunkley, failed [on the issue]. Michael Dunkley would not take a position. I believe there were a significant amount of people who voted on this issue and a lot of white Bermudians who voted for the PLP for the first time based on that.” He pointed out that less people voted for the OBA in the General Election (13,832), than voted against same-sex marriage in last year’s referendum (14,192). Lawyer Rod Attride-Stirling, who represented the Human Rights Commission in the case which resulted in Mrs Justice Simmons’s ruling, said Mr Furbert’s bill becoming law was by no means a “done deal” and, even if it did, it was still liable to attack. There are several problems with the Furbert Bill,” he said. “Putting aside the moral problem with it and looking at the legal problems, there are a number of reasons why the Governor may not be prepared to sign it [into law]. The bill is very arguably unconstitutional.” Mr Attride-Stirling said the biggest problem with the legislation was that it was religiously motivated. “With any legislation that’s religiously based, people who don’t subscribe to that religious view are discriminated against. It is bad for that reason.” The lawyer said a further argument could be made that restricting who a person could marry based on their gender was unconstitutional, as the constitution arguably outlaws unequal treatment on the basis of sex. Mr Furbert’s Bill was also problematic, he said, because it did not mention the fact that gay couples had now legally married here. "This is a very material change from the time when the Furbert Bill was first presented to Parliament. This change in circumstances must be addressed. If section 15 (c) is resuscitated, does that mean that those existing marriages that were lawful, are now going to be made unlawful overnight? The Bill is now wholly unclear and, therefore, now inadequate. Alternatively, if existing marriages will remain lawful, then you have to go back and make changes to deal with divorce. For these reasons, the Governor may require the bill to be amended to include a grandfathering clause. This would be normal given the change in position, ie that we now have existing lawful marriages in Bermuda and crystallized rights should not be taken away retroactively. The PLP should realize this and not allow the bill to proceed. The party could make a decision to vote against a private member’s Bill. It would be a shame if it was left to the Governor to force the issue of the need for a grandfather clause.” Mr Attride-Stirling said if the Bill was substantially changed it would need to go before the Senate, where anything might happen.
Down to the numbers
2017. June 28. Opponents of same-sex marriage have filed an application to appeal against the landmark Supreme Court ruling which allowed gay couples to wed in Bermuda. The request for permission to appeal the May 5 judgment is understood to have been made to the Registrar of the Supreme Court “out of time” ie after the six-week window during which appeals usually have to be lodged. Preserve Marriage are behind the application, which features the names of thousands of people who signed a petition against same-sex marriage in the past week. Those listed describe themselves as an “aggrieved party” in the matter. Among them is former politician Maxwell Burgess, who is named on the notice of appeal as a spokesman for the petition signatories. In a press release yesterday, Mr Burgess said he felt “obligated to lead the charge for the community to appeal” the ruling by Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons. He said the “agenda of a few” was overriding the “will of the country as a whole” and claimed 8,000 people had signed the petition in the space of 48 hours. The Registrar will decide whether the application can proceed at this stage, before a judge determines whether to give leave to appeal the matter to the Court of Appeal. The applicants may have to provide security of costs for the appeal to go ahead and legal sources speculated yesterday that it could prove costly, with as much as $300,000 having to be placed in an escrow account. The original Supreme Court proceedings were brought against the Government by Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé Greg DeRoche after the Registrar-General refused to post their wedding banns. After hearing the case, in which Preserve Marriage intervened, Mrs Justice Simmons agreed with the couple that their human rights had been breached and issued an order, the wording of which is still to be finalized, declaring that same-sex marriage was legal on the island. At least one gay couple has since tied the knot and Government has said it will not appeal the ruling. Mark Pettingill, representing Mr Godwin and Mr DeRoche, said yesterday: “We are aware of their [Preserve Marriage’s] attempts to file an appeal. There are significant consequences when cases are appealed by aggrieved parties." He added: “Any lawyer would advise that the basis for an appeal is non-existent.” Rod Attride-Stirling, who represented the Human Rights Commission, another intervener in the Godwin and DeRoche case, has previously said: “The judgment is sound and the legal issues that are the basis of the judgment are all correct." It wasn’t possible to reach Mr Burgess yesterday. Lawyer Rick Woolridge, who is representing the applicants seeking to appeal, said he would take instruction from his clients before commenting.Mr Burgess’s press release did not refer specifically to the application filed with the court but invited those who signed the petition to attend one of two meetings last night at the Heritage Worship Centre in Hamilton. The sessions were open only to petition signatories who brought ID along to verify who they were." I want to thank the 8,000 who came out to sign and, since we have closed stations, we have been inundated with requests from others who want to sign and be included,” said Mr Burgess. “As a result, due to public demand, stations will reopen this week to allow more members of the community to sign the appeal." The petition can be signed today and Friday from 8am to 8pm and on Saturday from 9am to 4pm at Calvary Gospel Chapel, 18 Middle Road, Southampton; Sound View First Church of God, 75 Sound View Road, Sandys; Heritage Worship Centre, Hamilton; the Evangelical Church, 1 Mission Road, Paget; and the “Old” St George’s Youth Centre, 23 Water Street. It can also be signed at the First Church of God, on North Shore Road, Pembroke, from 9am to 7.30pm today and Friday. Mr Burgess said the Government should have lodged an appeal against the judgment and should pay costs in the case. He claimed Preserve Marriage could be left “bankrupt” if it was ordered to pay costs to Mr Godwin and Mr DeRoche and the Human Rights Commission.
2017. June 17. The anonymous financial backers of Preserve Marriage could have to stump up for some of the legal costs of the case which led to the legalization of same-sex marriage. At a June 1 hearing in the Supreme Court, lawyer Grant Spurling, for successful plaintiffs Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche, told Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons that his clients would pursue costs from the Government, Preserve Marriage and Preserve Marriage’s donors. Delroy Duncan, for Preserve Marriage, said the issue of those third-party funders was critical and more time was needed to enable them to gain legal representation, as was their right. “The third-party funders are separate and apart from the limited liability company, Preserve Marriage,” the lawyer said. He said Mr Spurling was seeking names, addresses and other contact details for Preserve Marriage’s donors but he did not represent those people and could not provide them. “This is, in Bermuda terms, a very serious development,” added Mr Duncan. “You have a limited liability company which was a charity that people gave to, some under a cloak of confidentiality, some expressly saying ‘we do not want our names exposed’. “Some of those funders include churches and members of the community. Those people are entitled to be told before a hearing ‘this is what you potentially face’ and get legal representation.” He described the funders as “a lot of people throughout this community” and who would need to be marshaled and made aware of their liability. Mr Spurling responded: “The third-party funders can’t be taken to be unaware of costs.” He said if money from the donors was used to fund the litigation, they had to realize they could be liable for costs. Preserve Marriage’s intervention in the matter extended the proceedings greatly, he argued, when the plaintiffs’ aim was for the issue to be dealt with as swiftly as possible. Mr Spurling said Preserve Marriage should not be allowed to “effectively, conduct litigation behind a thin corporate veil. We are not talking about piercing the veil of a limited liability company. We are talking about very specific cost orders against third-party donors.” The lawyer noted that his clients had their human rights breached when the Registrar-General refused to post their marriage banns and could not now be left with the “very heavy burden of legal costs”. Mrs Justice Simmons said there could be “great difficulty” in ensuring the third-party donors were heard in court and asked Mr Spurling if he’d be willing, for practical reasons, not to pursue those donors. He said a final determination on that could be made later, since the hearing was to be adjourned anyway. Shakira Dill-Francois, representing the Government, said Mr Spurling would need to spell out whether any of the legal work done on behalf of the plaintiffs was provided free of charge. “Our position is, we are not liable to pay for that,” she said. Mr Spurling said: “The pro bono elements are not included on the applicants’ bill.” Ms Dill-Francois also suggested it made no sense for the Human Rights Commission, another intervener in the case, to seek costs from the Government, since it was funded from the Consolidated Fund, ie the public purse. But Rod Attride-Stirling, for the HRC, replied that though its funding was from the Consolidated Fund, it was from a different budget than the one used to fund Government’s legal costs. “We say this is a case where costs should be awarded against the respondents,” he said. “The HRC does not have an unlimited budget. It has a small budget.” Mr Attride-Stirling said not awarding costs to the HRC from Government would be “punishing” it for getting involved in a case involving human rights. The costs issue was adjourned, as was a final determination on the exact wording of the judge’s order on the legality of same-sex marriage.
2017. June 17. Preserve Marriage has urged its supporters to sign a petition against the landmark ruling which legalized gay marriage in Bermuda. The organisation, which lost its charitable status in the wake of that judgment, placed the petition at three different venues on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, telling followers on social media: “All of Bermuda, including those who voted against same-sex marriage, come out to sign … in any one of three locations.” The venues were Calvary Gospel Chapel in Southampton, Heritage Worship Centre in Hamilton and St George’s Youth Centre. The online flyer said: “Calling Bermuda to sign the community appeal against Justice Simmons’s single ruling of same-sex marriage. One will not decide for our children. Preserve Marriage has fought for Bermuda. Now it’s time for Bermuda to fight to preserve marriage.” It stated: “Government won’t appeal, so we the people will.” The group was due to hold a meeting on Monday (June 12) for those in support of appealing the decision, with members told in an e-mail that Preserve Marriage’s lawyer Delroy Duncan would “give an update on next steps”. The e-mail said American preacher Tony Evans, a Christian pastor who believes same-sex marriage is not a civil rights issue, would be present to “encourage all”. The message also revealed that Preserve Marriage’s potential liability for costs in the same-sex marriage Supreme Court case would be on the agenda. The Preserve Marriage e-mail to its members said going after the group for legal fees would “silence your voice. Lawyer [Mark] Pettingill, representing Godwin and DeRoche — who ended up getting married in Canada — after bringing same-sex marriage to Bermuda, is now trying to claim their legal fees from Preserve Marriage Bermuda and its supporters to attempt to cripple us financially.” Preserve Marriage has not responded to an e-mail request for comment.
2017. June 17. Opposition MP Wayne Furbert remains steadfast on returning to the House with his private member’s Bill restricting marriage to heterosexual couples, after the dust from the General Election has settled. “Right now there’s nothing to debate, but if I am elected I’ll bring it back in November,” the Hamilton West MP told The Royal Gazette. Mr Furbert described the draft legislation as “not a Progressive Labour Party Bill, but a conscience vote for everyone”, and said his party’s position had always stood at leaving the vote up to individual MPs. Twenty MPs, 12 of them from the Progressive Labour Party ranks, approved the Bill in July 2016, although the Senate subsequently turned it down — with a defiant Mr Furbert bringing it back to Parliament last month. But with the election called for July 18, just ahead of the scheduled return to the House, the future of Mr Furbert’s legislation could be less settled. Asked if he felt confident of getting the same reception to next time around, Mr Furbert said attitudes “could change based on the political climate at the time”. He said: “Some of those MPs may be in Parliament and some not. But if I am given the OK on July 18, it will be laid back down. It’s my obligation to do that at the earliest opportunity.”
2017. June 2. Equal rights campaigners were celebrating yesterday after it was revealed that Bermuda’s first gay wedding had taken place. The marriage ceremony of Bermudian lawyer Julia Saltus and her fiancée Judith Aidoo was conducted at the Registry-General on Wednesday, followed by a reception at Café Lido at Elbow Beach, according to one guest who attended. The nuptials came less than a month after the landmark Supreme Court ruling of May 5 which enabled gay people to marry on the island. Former Cabinet Minister Renee Webb, who tried unsuccessfully to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation more than a decade ago, told The Royal Gazette: “I attended the wedding, along with many others.” Ms Webb earlier posted on this newspaper’s website that she had the “pleasure and honour” of being at the ceremony. “The professional staff carried out the marriage of the brides with professionalism and a great sense of duty,” she wrote. “The Assistant Registrar is to be commended in her giving of the marriage vows. The sky did not fall, nor did it fall when we attended the reception on the beach at Café Lido. Bermuda is indeed a beautiful place. I am pleased at how kind and compassionate we Bermudians can be. I am proud of my personal journey in helping to bring about same-sex equality. Congratulations on their marriage to the beautiful women for their courage and demonstration of love. Love wins.” Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé Greg DeRoche brought the successful civil suit against the Government which led to Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons’s ruling last month. Mr Godwin and Mr DeRoche have since married in Toronto, making Ms Saltus and Ms Aido the first gay couple to take advantage of the judgment and tie the knot here. Lawyer Mark Pettingill, who represented Mr Godwin and Mr DeRoche, said yesterday he was “thrilled” to hear about Wednesday’s ceremony. “I hope there will be many more to follow in short order,” said the independent MP. Marriage equality campaigner Tony Brannon, who launched a petition to legalize same-sex marriage in 2015, said he spoke to the newlyweds as they celebrated at Café Lido and could not have been more delighted for them. “I am so happy for this wonderful news,” he said. “I met both of them. They were so happy and they said the lady at the registry office who married them was brilliant. Renee Webb and I hugged in celebration.” He said it was noteworthy that the wedding took place on the day Opposition MP Wayne Furbert’s bid to restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples was making headlines. “Wayne Furbert should hang his head in shame,” he said. The Rainbow Alliance, which works to create safe spaces for LGBTQ people and their allies, said in a statement: “The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda send our congratulations to the happy couple and wish them the best in their future together. Many other gay Bermudian couples have been waiting decades for the chance to marry their loved one and we’re excited to see people already take advantage of this move towards equality.” Ms Webb said the newlyweds were not interested in “being trailblazers”. She added: “They simply wanted to get married here.” The wedding was mentioned at a Supreme Court hearing yesterday regarding the ruling of Mrs Justice Simmons. The judge asked counsel if a same-sex marriage had taken place in Bermuda yet. Deputy Solicitor-General Shakira Dill-Francois, for the Government, and Rod Attride-Stirling, for the HRC, said one was held on Wednesday. Yesterday’s hearing was to determine the exact wording of the judge’s order declaring that gay marriage is legal. Mrs Justice Simmons took submissions from Ms Dill-Francois and Grant Spurling, representing Mr Godwin and Mr DeRoche, as well as Mr Attride-Stirling and Delroy Duncan, for the pressure group Preserve Marriage. The latter two entities were interveners in the case. The judge reserved judgment on the final wording of the order — and on costs — to a later date.
2017. May 31. Bermuda remains marginally against same-sex marriage, according to a poll commissioned by The Royal Gazette. Forty-eight per cent of registered voters oppose the idea, with 44 per cent in favour and 8 per cent undecided, the Global Research survey found this month. It means the gap has narrowed slightly, from eight percentage points to four, since the no campaign led 49-41 last June. The poll was carried out between May 15 and 19, a few days after Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons ruled in favour of Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche’s bid to marry on the island. The couple finally married in Toronto anyway on May 20, saying that their legal battle had been about forcing overdue change. Bermuda’s historical division over same-sex issues has come to the fore in recent years, with the Human Rights Act amended in 2013 to protect people from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. That was followed by campaigns from Rainbow Alliance and Preserve Marriage, for and against same-sex marriage respectively, in the run-up to a referendum last June. In July 2010, a Mindmaps poll found 27 per cent of registered voters in favour of same-sex marriage, with 51 per cent against and 22 per cent undecided. In October 2015, a Global Research poll found the score 48-44 in favour of the yes campaign, but by March 2016 the no campaign was leading 48-45. That lead stretched to 49-41 three months later. At last June’s referendum, 69 per cent of those who voted were against same-sex marriage and 31 per cent in favour. That translated to 32 per cent of the electorate against and 15 per cent in favour but, with a turnout of 47 per cent, the referendum was deemed unanswered. A breakdown of this month’s poll shows whites and the younger generation are most in favour of same-sex marriage. Among whites, 74 per cent were in favour, with 16 per cent against; among blacks, 24 per cent were in favour, with 68 per cent against. Among the 18 to 34 age group, 55 per cent were in favour, with 29 per cent against; among the over 65 age group, 37 per cent were in favour and 59 per cent against. The telephone poll of 400 people has a margin of error of +/- 5 per cent.
2017. May 31. Same-sex couples could have only a brief window of time in which to marry in Bermuda if a Bill tabled by Opposition politician Wayne Furbert passes in Parliament and gets royal assent. The draft legislation, which can be debated and voted on by MPs after July 8 and does not need Senate approval, would restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples. Gay people have had the right to wed one another in Bermuda since a landmark Supreme Court ruling on May 5, with at least one couple already giving notice of their intended nuptials. But the successful passage of Mr Furbert’s Bill could remove that right, meaning only same-sex marriages conducted here before the Bill was enacted into law would be valid. Commentators were divided yesterday on whether Mr Furbert’s private member’s Bill was likely to succeed. The same Bill passed in the House of Assembly last summer by 20 votes to ten, but was then blocked by the Upper Chamber, after six senators voted against it, including Mr Furbert’s Progressive Labour Party colleague Kim Wilkerson. Mr Furbert re-tabled his Bill earlier this month and, as per section 38 (2) of the Bermuda Constitution Order, there is no need this time for Senate approval before it goes to the Governor for assent. One parliamentary source, who asked not to be named, predicted yesterday that any fresh voting in the House was unlikely to have changed from last time. “I don’t think the numbers will change much at all,” said the source. “I think everyone will vote exactly as they voted before.” Those in favour of the Bill last year were: Jeanne Atherden, Kenneth Bascome, Craig Cannonier, Bob Richards, Sylvan Richards, Leah Scott, Wayne Scott and Cole Simons, of the One Bermuda Alliance, and Derrick Burgess, David Burt, Rolfe Commissiong, Lovitta Foggo, Mr Furbert, Dennis Lister, Diallo Rabain, Walter Roban, Lawrence Scott, Jamahl Simmons, Michael Weeks and Kim Wilson, of the PLP. Those against were: the OBA’s Grant Gibbons, Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, Trevor Moniz, Nandi Outerbridge, Mark Pettingill (who is now an independent MP), Glen Smith and Jeff Sousa, the PLP’s Walton Brown and Michael Scott and independent Shawn Crockwell. Michael Dunkley, the Premier, abstained. The OBA’s Suzann Roberts and Susan Jackson could not vote as they were, respectively, acting Speaker and committee chairman. The PLP’s Marc Bean and Zane DeSilva were absent, as was Speaker Randy Horton. Mr Bean’s seat is now held by Opposition MP Neville Tyrell. The source suggested MPs in marginal seats, who voted for Mr Furbert’s Bill last time around, would be least likely to change their position for fear of losing support, noting the vocal opposition to same-sex marriage from some churches and the pressure group Preserve Marriage. But lawyer Rod Attride-Stirling said: “I don’t think it’s certain that the vote will be the same. I understand that some people are reviewing [the Supreme Court judgment].” He said there were a variety of reasons why it was “far from certain that the Bill will ever become law”. Among them was the fact that the Bill can’t be debated before July 8 — 12 months after it first passed in the House — and a motion of no confidence in Mr Dunkley is scheduled for June 9, leaving no guarantee that Parliament will still be sitting by then. Even if it is, Mr Furbert’s Bill may not be taken up by the House before it breaks for the summer, as the Government may have other priorities. The Bill would amend the Human Rights Act by carving out a clause to give primacy where marriage is concerned to the Matrimonial Causes Act, which deems unions void unless between a man and a woman. If it was to be voted on again, legislators would be expected to have carefully read the May 5 ruling by Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons. The judge found that denying same-sex couples the right to marry created a hardship for them, and any children they might have, and was a breach of their human rights. Government, which was the defendant in the civil suit, said it would not appeal. Mr Attride-Stirling represented the Human Rights Commission as an intervener in the case. Giving his personal opinion to this newspaper, he said it would be “very difficult to vote for a change to the human rights legislation” in light of the judgment. He added: “The judgment is sound and the legal issues that are the basis of the judgment are all correct.” Neither political party has stated a firm position on same-sex marriage. An OBA spokesman told this newspaper earlier this month: “At this point, the party is not going to comment.” A PLP spokeswoman said on Sunday: “The issue of same-sex marriage is a matter of conscience for individual PLP MPs, as our members and supporters hold strong and divergent views, as they are free to do.” If Mr Furbert is able to get enough support for his Bill to pass, it will need the assent of John Rankin, the Governor, who is on record as a supporter of same-sex civil unions. Sources said he would be highly unlikely to refuse assent. “If he did reject [the Bill], it would create a constitutional challenge,” said the first parliamentary source. A second source said they believed it would receive assent. The United Kingdom enacted same-sex marriage legislation in 2014 and has said it expects its Overseas Territories to meet the same high standards as the British Government with regards to human rights. The source said the UK would likely be satisfied that Bermuda had met its obligations if it passed civil union legislation, meaning the draft civil union Bill, which was never tabled in Parliament by the Government before last year’s referendum, could resurface if Mr Furbert’s Bill was successful.
May 26. Thousands rallied behind same-sex union opponents Preserve Marriage yesterday outside Parliament, alongside a smaller peaceful demonstration by supporters of same-sex marriage. Addressed by various speakers, the crowd reiterated calls for the Government to appeal the Supreme Court’s decision permitting same-sex unions. While the group’s charitable status has been revoked, Preserve Marriage vowed to continue as a registered company with more than 500 members. “We are not to be bullied into silence, and we want to encourage Bermuda to stand for marriage,” one speaker told the crowd, maintaining that the group had been hit with “hate speech and biased reporting”. Crowds flocked to the grounds of the House of Assembly, with onlookers lining the streets, many carrying signs reading: “I am standing today for marriage to be between a man and a woman for Bermuda’s next generation.” The crowd also chanted: “One woman, one man, we need to take a stand.” Other signs opposed to same-sex marriage visible at the demonstration included: “Obedience is better than sacrifice,” and “2 **** boy can’t get married". Signs among supporters of the Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda included: “Let’s have the humility to leave the final judgment to God himself”, and “Love wins”. Rainbow umbrellas and other rainbow-colored items could also be seen. Josh Correia, with the Rainbow Alliance, said that the larger demonstration opposed to same-sex marriage was reflective of public opinion. “As much as I hate to say it, that’s Bermuda,” he said. Mr Correia said that while there is a larger LGBTQ-plus community than many realize on the island, many who identify aren’t open about it. “They don’t want to be vilified, they don’t want to be turned into a scapegoat by their community,” he said. While the Supreme Court ruling was the “right thing”, Mr Correia said that attitudes take a long time to change. “It’s certainly not going to happen overnight, and it’s definitely something we at the Rainbow Alliance will be working to help facilitate in the years to come.” Stressing that all were entitled to make their views known, Progressive Labour Party MP Wayne Furbert told The Royal Gazette that the turnout yesterday sent a clear message. “It makes it very clear that Bermudians want to ensure that marriage is defined [as] between a male and a female,” he added. Mr Furbert has vowed to press ahead with his private members’ Bill aimed at fortifying marriage when it comes up for debate in early July. “This year is an election year — you better listen to us,” he said. “If not, you decide whether or not you are going back to Parliament.” As demonstrators dispersed at about 1.30pm, equal rights proponent Mark Anderson declared himself “very proud to stand here as a gay Bermudian — and proud that Bermuda is a democracy where we can deal with issues”. While some interactions between demonstrators appeared heated, and others questioned why two counter-rallies had been allowed for the same location, civility seemed to prevail — although Mr Furbert said he had been dealt some abusive remarks. Police were on hand to monitor the demonstrations and assist with traffic. A Bermuda Police Service spokesman thanked the motoring public for their patience and co-operation during the event, which apparently occurred without incident.
May 26. Preserve Marriage is no longer a charity after the island’s Charity Commissioners decided its purposes were “unlawful” and caused “more detriment than benefit”. The panel took the decision to reject an application for renewal of the group’s charitable status on May 16, according to minutes of the meeting shared with The Royal Gazette under public access to information. The decision was shared with the public by Preserve Marriage itself, in a press release it sent out yesterday morning, shortly before leading a demonstration outside Parliament against same-sex marriage. The organisation said the rejection from the commissioners came despite a “20-plus page submission” it made detailing “how it fulfilled its mandate to educate the public on the issue of maintaining marriage between a man and a woman”. The May 16 minutes reveal that the commissioners denied the application for three reasons: • Preserve Marriage’s purposes being “unlawful” in light of the landmark May 5 Supreme Court ruling allowing gay couples to wed in Bermuda;• its purposes causing “more detriment than benefit” by appearing to “single out and victimize” people based on their sexual orientation; and• its purposes being purely political. The commissioners agreed that since the Government wasn’t planning to appeal the Supreme Court ruling, it should be considered final. The minutes state: “Insofar as the organisation’s primary purpose is to advocate for a definition of marriage which is now contrary to law and, in doing so, to seek to deny services to a group of individuals defined by virtue of a protected characteristic under the [Human Rights] Act, it fails the public benefit test.” In its press release, Preserve Marriage said in its first year as a charity it had held town hall meetings, public information sessions, island-wide marriage events and marriage-enriching seminars, fulfilling its mandate to educate the public. “We felt it imperative to educate the community and Government so that the public had the opportunity to exercise their constitutional right to stand for marriage between a man and a woman,” it said .The group claimed it was “invited by the courts and Government to intervene in the same-sex marriage case to ensure the community’s interests were represented” .It added: “Preserve Marriage was invited by the judge to intervene to support the Registrar-General’s office, the very office which is responsible for the Charities Commission.” Preserve Marriage applied to intervene in the case, as did the Human Rights Commission, and both were granted permission by Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons. Lawyer Rod Attride-Stirling, who represented the HRC in the matter, said yesterday: “The court did not invite them to intervene. There was no invitation. They applied for and received permission. The Attorney-General’s Chambers did not respond to a request for comment. Preserve Marriage was granted charitable status last year, despite 31 letters of objection from the public. Charity Commissioners chairman Richard Ambrosio said there were “quite a few” objections this year, though they have yet to be released under Pati. As of yesterday afternoon, Preserve Marriage’s website still had a donation section but, without charitable status, it must now cease any public fundraising. The press release said it would continue to operate as a registered company, with more than 500 members, and would “continue to inform and educate the public concerning traditional marriage and same-sex marriage.” It noted that OutBermuda, an organisation which supports same-sex marriage, recently had its charitable status renewed. Mr Attride-Stirling said: “It would be unusual for the Charity Commissioners to permit any entity to be given charitable status whose stated purpose is to prevent another group human rights or the exercise of human rights. And that’s the key purpose of Preserve Marriage. It could never be a legitimate charitable purpose, to prevent others from having human rights. OutBermuda ... are advocating for human rights for a minority group.” He said if Preserve Marriage had not “led the charge” against civil unions, the Government would likely have passed civil union legislation, and the issue of same-sex marriage would not need to have been decided by the courts.
2017. May 23. The couple whose legal challenge paved the way for same-sex marriage in Bermuda have got married in Canada. Bermudian Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche said they chose to have the ceremony in Mr DeRoche’s home city of Toronto after further delays publishing their marriage notice in Bermuda. They told The Royal Gazette that they also wanted to be in control of their own marriage and conduct the service on their own terms after the legal ruling. The short, simple service took place under sunny skies at Toronto City Hall on Saturday at 3pm and was attended by around 20 of the couple’s family and close friends. “The court case was never really about us as individuals,” Mr Godwin said. “It was more about getting something done in Bermuda that was overdue and needed to happen. To see the other same-sex couples using the ruling and getting their banns posted in the paper was the most rewarding thing for us. The outcome and its ramifications are what was really important; when it came to our marriage we wanted to keep it small, subdued and informal. And even more importantly, we wanted to feel like we had control of how it happened and who was there.” Mr Godwin and Mr DeRoche embarked on their fight for equal rights after the Registrar-General rejected their application to marry on the island in July 2016. They took their case to the Supreme Court, arguing that the Human Rights Act took primacy in Bermuda and protected their right to marry. At the beginning of this month Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons ruled in the couple’s favour. “The common law definition of marriage, that marriage is the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman, and its reflection in the Marriage Act section 24 and the Matrimonial Clauses Act section 15 (c) are inconsistent with the provisions of the Human Rights Act as they constitute deliberate different treatment on the basis of sexual orientation,” Mrs Justice Simmons said. The judge ruled that the common law discriminated against same-sex couples by excluding them from marriage. Mr Godwin added: “We do hope that people can understand why we made our choice. It would have been great to include many of the supporters that started this journey of the case with us but ultimately, due to a variety of factors, including time, we wanted to ensure that we did it our way and on our terms. We thank everyone from the bottom of our hearts that stuck by our side and supported us along the way.”
2017. May 19. A Bill that would solidify marriage as being between a man and a woman has been brought back to the House of Assembly for a second time. Progressive Labour Party MP Wayne Furbert has reintroduced the Human Rights Amendment Act as a Private Member’s Bill, telling The Royal Gazette that there were still legislative options on the table. The move comes after Justice Charles-Etta Simmons ruled in favour of Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé, Greg DeRoche, who had fought for equal rights after the Registrar-General rejected their application to marry on the island. “The system has not exhausted itself legislatively,” Mr Furbert said. He added that in her ruling, Mrs Justice Simmons “chastised Parliament for abrogating its responsibility”. And he said that while he “does not have the confidence” that the Bill will pass this time around, he felt it was his duty to fight for it in Parliament. Mr Furbert said many of his constituents had approached him about this. “Here is a Government that could appeal it, but hasn’t,” he added. “If Mark Pettingill had lost in the Supreme Court he would gone to the next stage,” he said. He added that this would have involved the Court of Appeal and ultimately the Privy Council. Speaking during the morning question session, Minister of Home Affairs Patricia Gordon-Pamplin said legal amendments to be drafted in light of the ruling were under discussion. But Ms Gordon-Pamplin deferred when asked whether marriages conducted before the amendments would be legal, saying she would await answers from the Attorney-General. Although independent MP Mark Pettingill said the ruling set out “very, very clearly what the position was in law — it should have taken five minutes for the AG’s chambers to advise”, Mr Furbert said there was still confusion. He added: “We still don’t know where it is legally.” The same amendments, which were rejected by the Senate last year after winning approval from the House of Assembly, would state that nothing in the Human Rights Act would override the provisions in the Matrimonial Causes Act 1974, which stipulates that marriages that are not between a man and a woman are void. The Bill was brought before the House of Assembly last year and was passed by 20 to ten on July 8. However, it was then defeated six-to-five in the Senate. After Mr Furbert introduced the Bill today, he was told by Mr Horton that it could not go ahead until at least July 8. Mr Furbert explained that a year had to elapse before the Act could be brought again once it was defeated.
2017. May 19. Legal amendments to be drafted in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage are under discussion, home affairs minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin said today. Responding to questions from Progressive Labour Party MP Walton Brown, Ms Gordon-Pamplin told the House of Assembly the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Attorney-General’s Chambers are working to identify necessary amendments. The minister deferred when asked whether marriages conducted before the amendments would be legal, saying she would await answers from the Attorney-General. Independent MP Mark Pettingill told the House that the ruling set out “very, very clearly what the position was in law — it should have taken five minutes for the AG’s chambers to advise. Why is it taking so long?” Mr Pettingill asked. Ms Gordon-Pamplin responded that she was “not a lawyer, and I don’t wish to misspeak”. Earlier this month, Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons ruled in favour of Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiance Greg DeRoche, who had fought for the right to marry in Bermuda. The couple had brought a civil suit against the Government after the Registrar-General refused to publish their marriage banns, claiming his failure to do so was discrimination under the Human Rights Act.
2017. May 17. The Registrar-General has posted the first wedding banns in Bermuda for a same-sex couple — but those against gay marriage are still seeking to stop such unions taking place. Julia Saltus, of Sandys, and Judith Aido, of Maryland, United States, applied last week for permission to tie the knot here, just days after a Supreme Court judge ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry on the island. The notice of their intended marriage comes as protesters begin preparing for a demonstration outside Parliament against same-sex marriage, planned for Thursday next week. Registrar Aubrey Pennyman complied with a May 5 order by Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons and posted the banns for Ms Saltus and Ms Aido last week. A notice appeared in The Royal Gazette on Saturday (May 13). The couple will be able to wed once the Registrar issues them with a certificate of marriage, which he can do under the Marriage Act 1944, “if no lawful impediment has been shown to his satisfaction why a certificate should not [be] issue[d]”. In the meantime, plans are being hatched to press MPs to pass legislation to override Mrs Justice Simmons’s decision and prevent same-sex marriages from taking place. Opposition MP Wayne Furbert, who is “still considering” re-tabling an amendment Bill in the House of Assembly restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples, told this newspaper he was aware a demonstration was in the pipeline, though he would not identify the organisers. “I think there is a group working on something,” he said yesterday. Messages on social media suggested the protest was being organised by Preserve Marriage, which has been the most vocal group against same-sex marriage in Bermuda. It intervened in the Supreme Court case which led to the judge’s landmark ruling and campaigned before the referendum on marriage equality in June 2016. One message asked: “Would you and some of your friends consider standing with churches on the lawn of Parliament House from 12.30pm to 1.30pm on Thursday, May 25, in support of Preserve Marriage, as the organisation seeks to amend the court’s ruling to uphold gay marriage?” The message continued: “If there are not thousands of us standing peacefully, it’s likely that what the court has decided will be binding. Think of the ramifications of an entirely different culture. People who believe in God will be persecuted to death even. Who gives these people the right to confuse children. This is serious!” Another message read: “Family — next week Thursday please meet outside of the Parliament building to show your support for marriage being between a man and a woman. Four thousand people are needed to make a stand for our vote to be passed. May 25 at 12.30pm to 1.30pm. Please invite your friends!” Preserve Marriage is waiting to hear if its charitable status has been renewed, after it expired on April 6. It did not respond to an e-mail request for comment yesterday. The marriage notice for Ms Saltus and Ms Aido is likely to be followed by others. Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche, the couple who brought the successful Supreme Court proceedings, are expected to resubmit their application to wed. Bermudian Eugene O’Connor also told this newspaper he and his fiancé were preparing to file their request. A previous landmark ruling on same-sex relationships — the Bermuda Bred decision of November 2015 — gave gay foreign partners of Bermudians the same right to reside and seek employment as spouses of Bermudians. By the end of last month, eight letters of permission had been issued to same-sex partners by the Department of Immigration, according to a Ministry of Home Affairs spokeswoman. The department’s guidelines for issuing the letters, released in February this year, say each case will be determined on its merits.
2017. May 12. Preserve Marriage has called on the Bermuda Government to appeal against the landmark court decision on gay marriage. In a statement, the group, which cannot legally challenge the ruling itself, said: “Preserve Marriage does not agree with the decision of the OBA Government not to appeal the same-sex marriage ruling. “We wish to make it clear that the OBA Government cannot free itself from responsibility for the introduction of same-sex marriage in Bermuda and give the Bermuda people the conclusion, ‘Well, the courts did it.’” Last week, Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons ruled in favour of Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé Greg DeRoche who had fought for the right to marry in Bermuda. The couple had brought a civil suit against the Government after the Registrar-General refused to publish their marriage banns, claiming his failure to do so was discrimination under the Human Rights Act. Mrs Justice Simmons agreed, ruling that the plaintiffs were entitled to a declaration that same-sex couples could be married here and an order compelling the Registrar to issue the banns.
2017. May 12. The Human Rights Commission has announced its backing of the same-sex ruling handed down by Justice Charles-Etta Simmons earlier this week. The judgment reinforces the Commission’s position that “the primacy of the Human Rights Act, 1981 should be upheld, equality enforced, and rights respected,” said a HRC statement released this evening. “The decision also confirms that the Human Rights Act, 1981 serves as an important tool to protect the rights in keeping with the spirit of protection of rights and freedoms under our Constitution. At its core, this is an issue of equality and ensuring that all people are treated equally under the law. The issue of same-sex marriage has been a highly divisive one and whilst many are in support of the historic judgment issued by the Supreme Court on Friday May 5, 2017, there are strongly held views opposing the judgment, and the Commission recognizes this reality. The challenge of balancing competing rights is a dynamic and evolving duty that requires constant consideration. The Human Rights Commission takes this responsibility very seriously and in the coming months we will continue to work with the government, members of the LGBTQ community, religious institutions and other stakeholders to ensure that freedom of religion together with freedom from discrimination based and equality for all will be upheld in Bermuda. The HRC is a resource for the public, and will continue to work with all members of the community to address questions and concerns on this matter as well as all other Human Rights matters moving forward. More information can be given by calling 295-5859. The HRC is located at 32 Victoria Street on the ground floor of Milner House. E-mails can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.
2017. May 10. The Government will not appeal last week’s landmark legal ruling on same-sex marriage. Home affairs minister Pat Gordon-Pamplin told The Royal Gazette last night: “The Government acknowledges the Supreme Court ruling handed down on Friday last and, upon legal advice, we have determined that we will not lodge an appeal against the judgment. “While we accept that widespread support of this very sensitive and emotive issue of marriage equality is difficult to achieve, we do, however, recognise that as a community we must be able to have open and honest conversations which help to encourage awareness, understanding, tolerance and respect for one another. We will abide by the decision of the judiciary and will implement the necessary steps to ensure compliance with the judgment.” The ruling by Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons enables gay couples to marry in Bermuda. Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé Greg DeRoche brought the civil suit against the Government after the Registrar-General refused to publish their marriage banns. They claimed his failure to do so was discrimination under the Human Rights Act and Mrs Justice Simmons agreed, ruling that the plaintiffs were entitled to a declaration that same-sex couples could be married here and an order compelling the Registrar to issue the banns. Earlier yesterday, before the minister made her comments, this newspaper asked Mark Pettingill, the lawyer representing the couple who won the case, if an appeal was likely. “In light of how significant this judgment is and how it accords with all of the decisions in relation to human rights internationally and in the United Kingdom and in Europe, I would be extremely surprised were the respondents to pursue an appeal,” said the former Attorney-General. Another legal source, who did not wish to be named, pointed out that this Supreme Court case was the fourth regarding the primacy of the Human Rights Act over other laws. The Government lost the three previous suits, two of which involved same-sex relationships, and did not appeal. “It would be kind of odd for them to appeal this one,” said the source. Preserve Marriage, a group opposed to same-sex marriage and civil unions, was an intervener in the most recent case. The hearing earlier this year was told that interveners do not have the right to appeal judgments.
2017. May 8. A Bermudian is planning to file his banns in quick order after Friday’s Supreme Court gay marriage ruling, telling The Royal Gazette: “I would love to get married in my own country.” Eugene O’Connor, who was born and raised in Bermuda, joins many members of the LGBTQ community in celebration of the ruling which they believe marks the first step in stamping out discrimination. Meanwhile, Progressive Labour Party MP Wayne Furbert told this newspaper he is “deeply considering” re-tabling an amendment Bill that would solidify marriage as being between a man and a woman. The amendments, which were rejected by the Senate last year after winning approval from the House of Assembly, would state that nothing in the Human Rights Act would override the provisions in the Matrimonial Causes Act 1974, which stipulates that marriages that are not between a man and a woman are void. Mr Furbert added that he believes that a binding referendum should be held to give the public a chance to make the final decision. Last Friday, Puisne Judge Charles- Etta Simmons ruled in favour of Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé, Greg DeRoche, who had fought for equal rights after the Registrar-General rejected their application to marry on the island. Yesterday, Mr O’Connor said he has filled out the information required to apply for his banns and will file them at the earliest opportunity. “It is quite significant for me, I would love to get married in my own country,” he told The Royal Gazette. “It is definitely a step forward and a huge accomplishment. Speaking to my fellow gay friends, they are all ecstatic that it has finally gone through and that the judge actually went in with an open heart and realized what they were doing was wrong. We are consenting adults. Loads of Bermudians want to come back to Bermuda — this little act of bringing equal rights is making people want to come home. “We [my fiancé and I] spoke about it today and I have already filled out the form. Before the ruling we thought that even if we went away to get married we would come back to where we both live and it would not be recognized — we thought we shouldn’t get married as an added expense because it wouldn’t hold any legs in Bermuda. If it came to the point that it was that big of an issue, we even thought about relocating.” Mr O’Connor said he comes from a religious background but his life decisions have not been directly impacted by this. He said: “I come from a very traditional family, my mother is Catholic, I was brought up in the Anglican Church. I am very spiritual and religious but there is a lot of biblical nonsense going on. I am a very conservative type. I don’t push it in people’s faces, I just think it is normal that I live my life and you live your life. Some have had it a lot worse than I have. “My lifestyle and choices are my business. My mother always used to say to me, ‘Are they paying your Belco bill? So why do you care what they are doing?’” Mr O’Connor’s fiancé, who wishes to remain anonymous, added: “I feel more secure and emotionally I can now give the relationship my all.” Community activist and member of the LGBTQ community Linda Mienzer said that she also intends on having a same-sex marriage in Bermuda. And while she believes the ruling was “a victory for Bermuda”, she believes the island still has a long way to go because of “religious hypocrisy”. Ms Mienzer said: “My initial reaction was shock that after such a long journey we had finally arrived at this place. We still have a long way to go — we are supposedly a very religious country but I don’t think that is challenged enough because the same people who would throw the bible at me are offenders of all sorts of rules of the bible. “We operate in a society where it’s ‘don’t ask don’t tell’. As long as you present the image of what people think you should fall into then we will just go along and be happy on our merry way. But if you step outside that box then you are ostracized and shunned — it is a very unhealthy environment. I come from a black community who are all up in arms about discrimination because of colour, but who are discriminating against me because me because of my sexuality — that is a very difficult thing to reconcile. Will this ruling fix all our ills? Absolutely not, but this is one step closer to acknowledging that people have a right to equal access.” Ms Mienzer said a line has to be drawn between church and state: “Every religion is entitled to the freedom of how they want their churches to operate but I don’t think they have the right to dictate how government services operate.” She gave credit to Mr Furbert, saying he gave her a hug after the ruling, telling her he had nothing against her personally. Mr Furbert told this newspaper that he wants to speak with his colleagues before deciding whether to go ahead with his amendment. He said: “I am deeply considering it. I have had a lot of calls and e-mails suggesting I push this on. They are putting the pressure on me, that is for sure.” But ultimately he wished for the decision on same-sex marriage to be put firmly in the hands of the public, criticizing the One Bermuda Alliance’s decision to hold a non-binding referendum in June of last year. “We need another referendum that is binding. Why have a non-binding referendum? What are people going to come out for, a Sunday walk? They didn’t take it seriously.” Adrian Hartnett-Beasley, a gay Bermudian who married overseas, said he is proud of the courts for “building out a more just and equal framework, where the legislature failed us”. However, he remained cautious in his optimism, adding: “While marriage equality is one of the issues facing Bermuda’s LGBTQ community, there are many more that affect us on a day-to-day basis and the often hostile Bermuda environment makes simple matters difficult and legal avenues are just not often feasible.” Action group Preserve Marriage strongly criticised the ruling on Friday, calling it “an attack on traditional marriage and an attack on Christian and other faith-based and traditional values”. The group also highlighted that Bermuda has become the only country to introduce same-sex marriage through the ruling of a single judge. Mr Hartnett-Beasley added: “Preserve Marriage and MP Wayne Furbert have already publicly shown their discontent and disagreement with the decision. Neither the OBA nor the PLP have come out publicly with a statement of support; there are undoubtedly disagreements within each party on how to handle this topic, especially in an election year. Hopefully marriage equality and LGBTQ rights generally are not going to be a political football during 2017.” Mark Anderson, a Bermudian who has stood up for equal rights for many years, told The Royal Gazette: “I never thought in my wildest dreams that this would happen — not in my lifetime. It is great for Bermuda.” Mr Anderson said he will be organising a celebratory event on June 5 — one month after the ruling. And Joe Gibbons, a Bermudian who married his partner overseas, added: “For those who are married, it makes all the aspects of hetero marriage apply. It also makes it possible for same-sex couples to more comfortably adopt, and plan a future life. And despite the nonsense, the only people impacted by this change are LGBT. Otherwise life goes on as usual.”
2017. May 6. In her landmark judgment, Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons set out draft declarations of how the Marriage Act and Matrimonial Clauses Act could be reformulated in light of the ruling. The judge also prefaced her suggestions by saying “I will hear from counsel on the precise terms of the final Order.” Firstly the definition of marriage would be inoperative to the extent that it contains the terms “one man and one woman” and reformulated to read: “the voluntary union for life of two persons to the exclusion of all others”. Secondly she said it would be appropriate for the court to declare section 24 (b) of the Marriage Act to be inoperative to the extent it refers to “man” and “wife” and further reformulate that section to read “and each of the parties shall say to the other in the presence of witnesses ‘I call upon these persons here present to witness that I (AB) do take thee (BC) to be my lawfully wedded wife/husband/spouse’.” Thirdly in the same vein, section 23 (4) of the Marriage Act should be reformulated to “I (AB) do take thee (CD) to be my lawfully wedded wife/husband/spouse”. And fourthly because the Matrimonial Clauses Act reflects the common law definition of marriage, and for the reasons stated, it is appropriate for the court to declare section 15 (c) of the Act inoperative.
2017. May 6. Lawyer Mark Pettingill hailed yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage as a victory for human rights in Bermuda. Describing Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons’ ruling as “everything we could have wanted, and more”, Mr Pettingill said that the successful outcome of the case was a major milestone for the country. “I cried on Thursday night when I read the draft judgment,” he told The Royal Gazette. “It’s been very emotional. Whatever I have done in my career, this is hands down the highlight. I have been an advocate of human rights and equality my whole life and this has very much been a human journey for me. It is one of those things that we could not have done without all the people that took part in the case and supported us from my junior Grant Spurling, to Rod Attride-Stirling, who brought so much to the table, to Shawn Crockwell and all the team at Chancery Legal. This discussion has been healthy for the country and I hope we can now embrace the judgment, embrace love and peace and move forward.” Lawyer Rod Attride-Stirling, who acted for the Human Rights Commission during the case, lamented that the legislature had not acted on the issue of same-sex marriage to put the issue beyond doubt. “It is also a matter of great shame that the Attorney-General fought the case in the manner in which it was fought, ignoring the Bermudian cases on the proper interpretation of the Human Rights Act,” Mr Attride-Stirling said. “This should not have been so. I am glad to see that the Bermuda court has followed the courts, first of South Africa, which decided this issue in 2005, and then the United States which followed suit in 2015. The message of hate and exclusion has been rejected. Human rights means human rights for all humans. Equally. No one is excluded. Gays who want to marry can now do so. “Bermuda owes a huge debt of gratitude to the two brave young men who brought this action, Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche. They will always be remembered as heroes of the human rights movement.”
2017. May 6. The controversial issue of same-sex marriage finally came under the legal spotlight in the island’s Supreme Court at the beginning of this year. Over three days of judicial review proceedings, lawyers representing Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé Greg DeRoche and the Bermuda Government clashed over the statutory interpretation of legislation governing marriage. Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission and Preserve Marriage were also given the chance to voice their opinions in court on the hotly debated topic. Mark Pettingill, acting for the couple, urged the court to write the final chapter in the protection of gay rights in Bermuda. He said the couple’s case encapsulates “the right to happiness, the right of all people to seek love and happiness”. Mr Pettingill added: “The applicants say that religious arguments bear no relevance on civil contractual marriage. This is a matter of statutory interpretation. “It is time for the courts, fully armed with the legal protection of the Human Rights Act, to write the final chapter in the protection of the rights of gay people of secular orientation and all the rights that everyone enjoys to be the same.” But the Government’s lawyer, Deputy Solicitor-General Shakira Dill-Francois, told the court that the Registrar-General could not post marriage banns for gay couples because such unions are null and void under Bermuda’s existing laws. She said that under section 33 of the Marriage Act 1944, it was an offence for the Registrar to authorise a marriage, knowing it was void. She added the Matrimonial Causes Act 1974, in section 15, clearly sets out the grounds on which a marriage was void, including if “the parties are not respectively male and female”. Adding that the two pieces of legislation had to be read and understood together, Ms Dill-Francois asked: “Why would the Registrar proceed to register a marriage that is, in fact, void?” Preserve Marriage, which has campaigned to maintain marriage as between a man and a woman, and the Human Rights Commission were allowed to join the proceedings as “interveners”. Preserve Marriage was represented by lawyer Delroy Duncan, who argued that changing the law on same-sex marriage could open the door for “multiple-partner marriages” on the island. “We have to ask ourselves whether this legislation is permissive of such marriages or whether or not what you are being asked to do could open the door to multiple-partner marriages,” he said. Mr Duncan maintained that Parliament must decide on the issue of same-sex marriage “through the ballot box”.
2017. May 5. The Rainbow Alliance declared yesterday’s landmark gay marriage ruling a victory for all same-gender loving people in Bermuda. Saluting Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche for their courage in taking on the Bermuda Government at the risk of being ostracized by the community, the Alliance issued a statement saying “love always wins”. The organisation also released a comment from Mr Godwin, a Bermudian, and his Canadian fiancé Mr DeRoche, saying they hope the result gives more people courage to speak up or come out. The Alliance said it was “overwhelmed with joy” at the conclusion of the historic ruling. We applaud the landmark decision by Justice Charles-Etta Simmons. History has been made and love has won. This ruling is not only a victory for a brave young couple willing to fight for their love, Winston Godwin and his fiancé Greg DeRoche, this ruling is a victory for all same-gender loving people in Bermuda. In this decision, the courts have affirmed that the love between two consenting adults is worth protecting with law, regardless of gender. This outcome ensures that same-gender couples can enjoy the same legal protections as heterosexual spouses do. This outcome preserves the notion that love is the greatest force of all.” It quoted Mr Godwin and Mr DeRoche as saying: “We appreciate all the positive affirmations and support. This has been a long process, but well worth the fight. Hopefully this brings forward hope and courage for those who were/are afraid to speak up or come out. This is a moment we are proud of and will never forget. This outcome could not be possible if it were not for the courageous decision of Winston to take on the government of his home and risk being ostracized by his community for the sake of love. We applaud Winston and Greg, the legal team that supported this challenge, and the many campaigners that have over the years fought for increased human rights, dignity, and respect of LGBTQ people. There is so much more work to be done, but today, we celebrate that love always wins.”
2017. May 5. A gay couple have won a landmark legal ruling that paves the way for same-sex marriage in Bermuda. Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé, Greg DeRoche, embarked on their fight for equal rights after the Registrar-General rejected their application to marry on the island. They took their case to the Supreme Court, arguing that the Human Rights Act took primacy in Bermuda and protected their right to marry. Yesterday a packed courtroom in the Dame Lois Browne-Evans Building erupted into spontaneous applause after Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons ruled in the couple’s favour. “The common law definition of marriage, that marriage is the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman, and its reflection in the Marriage Act section 24 and the Matrimonial Clauses Act section 15 (c) are inconsistent with the provisions of the Human Rights Act as they constitute deliberate different treatment on the basis of sexual orientation,” Mrs Justice Simmons said. “In so doing the common law discriminates against same-sex couples by excluding them from marriage and more broadly speaking the institution of marriage. On the facts of this case the applicants were discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation when the Registrar refused to process their notice of intended marriage. Same-sex couples denied access to marriage laws and entry into the institution of marriage have been denied what the Human Rights Commission terms a “basket of goods”, that is rights of a spouse contained in numerous enactments of Parliament.” The applicants are entitled to an Order of Mandamus compelling the Registrar to act in accordance with the requirements of the Marriage Act and a Declaration that same-sex couples are entitled to be married under the Marriage Act 1944.” Mr Godwin described the ruling as a big step in the right direction and told The Royal Gazette that he and Mr DeRoche would be resubmitting their application to marry to the Registrar-General “within days. It has been a long time coming. This ruling, although it was in our favour ... there is still so much more to do in Bermuda. The ruling today is more than me and pieces of paper; it’s more than any of that, it is what it means for Bermuda moving forward. Now we can begin to fix some of these issues. People are going to have their opinions about this and that is OK. I am not here to change people’s opinions or how they think. I just want them to respect me and my relationship and my marriage that will happen here. This is a big step in the right direction and I cannot thank my legal team and my supporters enough. Hopefully, this brings forward hope and courage for those who were or are afraid to speak up or come out. This is a moment we are proud of and will never forget.” Meanwhile, yesterday’s 48-page judgment was welcomed by the Rainbow Alliance who declared the ruling as victory for all same-gender loving people in Bermuda. The group said “history has been made and love has won”. Senator Jeff Baron, the Minister of National Security, added: “Today’s ruling affirms that equality is for all — regardless of who you love, what you look like or who you pray to. And equality, when it’s real, isn’t conditional. Let’s acknowledge that there’s a tremendous amount of work to do, right here at home, to move barriers and heal our community. Let’s keep working together, let’s build this community of supporters and champions for equality. And despite hurtful attacks let us reach across and engage the most sceptical citizens and show them that Bermudian values; values of love, respect and inclusiveness, can be found in every corner of this island.” However, Preserve Marriage labeled the ruling as an attack on traditional values, claiming it has worsened the divide in Bermuda. The group stated: “Today a single judge, Justice Charles-Etta Simmons, of the Supreme Court of Bermuda has decided to redefine the institution of marriage. By imposing this judgment, the court has ruled against many in the community of Bermuda.” Mrs Justice Simmons noted that the Bermuda courts had already struck down legislation that discriminated against a same-sex male couple from adopting a child and treated a non-Bermudian same-sex partner of a Bermudian differently from a non-Bermudian opposite-sex partner of a Bermudian. The ruling states: “Against the legal, social and cultural back drop of changing attitudes regarding same-sex relationships and sexual orientation it is fair to say that notions such as marriage or the institution of marriage being predicated upon heterosexual procreation and marriage being the main and most effective means of rearing healthy, happy and well-adjusted children, to borrow a phrase from the Chief Justice, have been turned on their heads. “Their historic and insular perspective as reflected in the common law definition of marriage is out of step with the reality of Bermuda in the 20th century. "
2017. February 2. Changing the law on same-sex marriage could open the door for “multiple partner marriages” on the island, lawyer Delroy Duncan told a packed Supreme Court yesterday. Mr Duncan, representing the charity Preserve Marriage, which opposes same-sex marriage and civil unions, said: “I say this not mockingly or jokingly.” He noted that four Supreme Court justices in the United States had raised such concerns when same-sex marriage was made legal there. “We have to ask ourselves whether this legislation is permissive of such marriages or whether or not what you are being asked to do could open the door to multiple partner marriages.” He said the common-law definition of marriage was that it was between a man and a woman, and the Registrar-General had to judge each marriage application in that context. Mr Duncan was speaking on the third day of a case brought by Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé, Greg DeRoche. The couple are fighting for the right to wed on the island and claim their human rights have been breached by the Registrar’s refusal to post their marriage banns. They are seeking an order from the Supreme Court to compel the Registrar to post their marriage banns, as well as issue a declaration that same-sex couples are entitled to wed here. The civil proceedings concluded yesterday, with Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons expected to deliver her ruling within the next six weeks. Mr Duncan started the day by arguing Parliament must decide on the issue of same-sex marriage “through the ballot box”. He said the Bermuda Supreme Court was being asked to become only the second court in the world — after the United States — to decide the matter through the courts, rather than the legislature. “There is no doubt that this is a great and important moment in the history of this country. There is no doubt that we need to grapple with the issues in this case with compassion, fairness and understanding for both sides of the aisle.” He said his clients held no “ill will” for members of the same-sex community and were intervening in the case owing to strongly held beliefs on the meaning of marriage. “The court is being asked to redefine marriage for the purposes of those who seek same-sex marriage,” Mr Duncan said. “This court is facing a cultural challenge of monumental proportions. That challenge has reared its head in the guise of this application.” He cited Bermuda’s Caribbean roots and said a “cultural clash” was at the heart of the marriage equality debate. Mr Duncan cautioned that there would be “no reason” why same-sex couples could not request a religious wedding if the judge amended the legislation to make such unions legal, questioning whether churches would have legal protection allowing them to refuse such requests. Mr Duncan said the law on this issue needed to be developed in an orderly way — by legislators, rather than “piecemeal” in the courts — to “ensure that the protection is upfront for the religious community”. The couple’s case hinges, in part, on the Human Rights Act prohibiting discrimination in the provision of goods and services on the grounds of sexual orientation. The plaintiffs say the Registrar’s marriage duties constitute a service, as defined by the Act, while the Government has argued that not to be the case. Mr Duncan said that the Registrar, in making a determination on marriage, was carrying out a function that only a government official could do. He questioned if the court would have the power to fulfil the plaintiff’s request, saying that while allowing same-sex and unmarried couples to adopt required a simple striking out of marriage, allowing same-sex marriage would require more comprehensive changes in the law. He also took aim at the Human Rights Commission’s comparison of same-sex marriage to interracial marriage, saying that some found the comparison offensive. Responding, lawyer Mark Pettingill, representing the plaintiffs, said that Mr Duncan had repeatedly “picked the plums from the duff” by relying on dissenting opinions in his arguments rather than those in the majority. He argued that the rights of a same-sex couple to marry would not interfere with the rights of people to practise their religion, saying the two can and should coexist. The courtroom at the Dame Lois Browne-Evans building was packed to capacity, with members of the public having to sit in areas normally reserved for jurors, witnesses and the media. Those watching the case included Mr Godwin, Opposition MPs Wayne Furbert and Kim Wilson, and gay rights activist Mark Anderson. The Government is represented by Deputy Solicitor-General Shakira Dill-Francois. Preserve Marriage is an intervener in the case, as is the Human Rights Commission, represented by Rod Attride-Stirling.
2017. February 1. The Registrar-General cannot post marriage banns for gay couples because such unions are null and void under Bermuda’s existing laws, a court heard yesterday. Deputy Solicitor-General Shakira Dill-Francois, representing the Bermuda Government in a civil action brought against it by a same-sex couple, told a Supreme Court hearing that under section 33 of the Marriage Act 1944 it was an offence for the Registrar to authorize a marriage, knowing it was void. She said the Matrimonial Causes Act 1974, in section 15, clearly set out the grounds on which a marriage was void, including if “the parties are not respectively male and female. Why would the Registrar proceed to register a marriage that is, in fact, void?” asked Ms Dill-Francois, adding that the two pieces of legislation had to be read and understood together. Ms Dill-Francois was giving her submissions on the second day of a case brought by Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé, Greg DeRoche, who are represented by former Attorney-General Mark Pettingill. The couple want the right to marry on the island and are seeking an order from the Supreme Court to compel the Registrar to post their marriage banns, as well as issue a declaration that same-sex couples are entitled to wed here. Mr Pettingill told Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons on Monday that the Human Rights Act 1981, which bans discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods and services, had primacy over all other laws. But Ms Dill-Francois said it was important to consider the intent of legislators when they amended the Human Rights Act in 2013 to include sexual orientation in the list of protected classes. Quoting from Hansard, the official parliamentary transcript, she read comments made in the House of Assembly by the Attorney-General at the time: Mr Pettingill. He had told MPs: “This government considers marriage to be between a man and a woman only. This government will not be issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples.” In court yesterday, Mr Pettingill got to his feet to acknowledge that it was he who was being quoted but he asked Ms Dill-Francois, to read on to include a further remark he made in Parliament on the subject of same-sex marriage: “It’s a different debate for a different day.” Ms Dill-Francois said: “I’m not reading this section to in any way cast aspersions on my learned friend. The reason I am reading it is to show what the purpose of the amendment was for.” She added: “It’s the duty of the court to accept the purposes decided on by Parliament.” The Deputy Solicitor-General argued that posting marriage banns and issuing marriage licences was not a “service” as defined by the Human Rights Act. Ms Dill-Francois said the Act applied to civil servants as it applied to “acts done by private persons” but that was limited and did not include functions carried out by the Government only. “Parliament did not intend for governmental functions to be considered services,” she insisted. Earlier, the court heard from Rod Attride-Stirling, representing the Human Rights Commission as an intervener in the case. He recalled comments made by former Progressive Labour Party leader Dame Lois Browne-Evans when the Stubbs Bill was passed to decriminalize sexual acts between men: “Human rights are for all people.” Mr Attride-Stirling asked: “What would Dame Lois say about this case? I think it’s clear.” He turned to the United Kingdom and said since same-sex marriage was introduced there, “nothing happened, other than people in love got married”. The former HRC chairman spoke about South Africa, where gay marriage was made legal in 2006. He said the country knew plenty about racial discrimination and it had deemed racial and sexual orientation discrimination as “the same thing”. His comments drew murmurs of disapproval from several people sitting in the public gallery, with one person saying “nonsense!” and another adding: “I was born black.” Mr Attride-Stirling said: “In Bermuda, we tend to have a discriminatory view of homosexuals. Through time and education, we have evolved. Not everyone has evolved at the same pace.” He suggested MPs had “passed the buck” on the issue by leaving it for the courts to decide and acknowledged the judge had a difficult task ahead. He noted comments made by Donald Trump in the presidential election about appointing judges to reverse marriage equality in the United States. Mr Attride-Stirling noted a day earlier that three previous Supreme Court judgments concluded that government-only functions were “services” as defined by the Human Rights Act, He said an amendment to that Act passed by Parliament in 2016 “carved out” 28 exceptions, and the Registrar’s marriage licensing duties were not included in the exceptions, so clearly fell within its ambit. Ultimately, he said, the Bermuda courts would be invited to “take either the Trump view of same-sex marriage or the [Nelson] Mandela view”. He said the rights of children needed to be considered because while it was legal for children to be adopted by same-sex couples in Bermuda, those children were now “being prejudiced [against] because they don’t have the right to have two married parents and the rights that are associated with them”. The lawyer said if there was a case where one partner was Bermudian and the other foreign and the Bermudian died, the foreign partner could be made to leave the island. He referenced the controversy surrounding the Reverend Nicholas Tweed, who has a Bermudian daughter, but is separated from his Bermudian wife and has had a work-permit renewal refused, meaning he may have to leave the island. Mr Attride-Stirling said at least in Mr Tweed’s case, he could have chosen to stay married, adding: “Gay couples don’t have that ability.” The case continues tomorrow at 9.30am in Court Four of the Dame Lois Browne-Evans building.
2017. January 30. The lawyer for a gay couple fighting for the right to marry in Bermuda has urged the court to write the final chapter in the protection of gay rights. Mark Pettingill, acting on behalf of Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé, Greg DeRoche, told the Supreme Court that the Human Rights Act took primacy in Bermuda and protected his clients’ rights to marry. Mr Godwin and Mr DeRoche have brought a civil case against the Registrar-General for rejecting their application to marry. They are seeking an order from the Supreme Court to compel the Registrar to post their marriage bans, in accordance with the Marriage Act. They also want a declaration that same-sex couples are entitled to be married under that law. This morning, Mr Pettingill addressed Judge Charles-Etta Simmons before a packed courtroom of more than 60 people at the beginning of the case. He said the case encapsulates “the right to happiness, the right of all people to seek love and happiness”, adding: “The applicants say that religious arguments bear no relevance on civil contractual marriage. This is a matter of statutory interpretation.” In his opening address, Mr Pettingill also questioned why the Attorney-General and the Minister of Home Affairs were named as respondents in the case. “I don’t understand how the respondents are even here,” he said. “There are three respondents listed: one [the Registrar-General] has withdrawn his position, and the other two have supported the applicant’s position. I understand it’s politics and a lot of heads can get stuck in the sand but this is a court of law. These two respondents [the Attorney-General and Minister of Home Affairs] objected and voted against provisions that would override the primacy of the Human Rights Act. Why are we here?” Describing the referendum on same-sex marriage and civil unions as “folly” Mr Pettingill added: “It’s a minority rights issue. It is time for the courts fully armed with the legal protection of the Human Rights Act to write the final chapter in the protection of the rights of gay people of secular orientation and all the rights that everyone enjoys to be the same.” Mr Godwin, who was in court for today’s proceedings, wore a T-shirt saying “Some dudes marry dudes. Get over it.” Mr Pettingill insisted that the primacy of the Human Rights Act protected his clients’ right not to be discriminated against on the basis of their sex or sexual orientation. He said: “It is not just about Bermuda, it is about right thinking countries and people now at least embracing this concept, and in embracing this concept we cannot in Bermuda operate in a vacuum or create artificial arguments to obviate the position in human rights. The law is clear.” Preserve Marriage, which has campaigned to maintain marriage as between a man and a woman, has been allowed to join the case as an “intervener” in the proceedings. The group is represented by Delroy Duncan, and the defendant by the Attorney-General’s Chambers. The case, which is expected to last several days, is taking place in Court Four of the Dame Lois Browne-Evans building before Judge Charles-Etta Simmons. Those in attendance include the Progressive Labour Party MP Wayne Furbert, an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage, and Tony Brannon, who has been at the forefront of the campaign in favour.
2017. January 30. Wayne Furbert has said he will bring amendments solidifying marriage as between a man and a woman back to the House of Assembly as the debate over same-sex marriage prepares to return to the courts. Speaking last night at a prayer rally organised by Preserve Marriage on the eve of a court hearing on the subject of same-sex marriage, the Progressive Labour Party MP said he would continue to push the amendments forward. “I don’t know what the courts will do, but I will bring it back in June,” he said to applause. Urging the hundreds at the rally to speak to their representatives in the House about their views, he said: “Don’t give up the fight. Don’t think this is over. The battle is not over.” Mr Furbert originally tabled amendments to the Human Rights Act to limit marriage as between a man and a woman last year. The amendments were approved by the House of Assembly, but later rejected by the Senate by a vote of six to five. The comments came less than 24 hours before Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé, Greg DeRoche, are set to appear before the courts to fight for same-sex marriage. The couple have brought a civil case against the Registrar-General for rejecting their application to marry, claiming the refusal breaches the Human Rights Act. They are seeking an order from the Supreme court to compel the Registrar to post their marriage bans, in accordance with the Marriage Act. They also want a declaration that same-sex couples are entitled to be married under that law. Preserve Marriage, which has campaigned to maintain marriage as between a man and a woman, has been allowed to join the case as an “intervener” in the proceedings. Mr Godwin and Mr DeRoche are represented by Mark Pettingill, with the Attorney-General’s Chambers for the defendant. Speaking last night, Mr Pettingill said that the case was expected to last several days in court as both sides present their arguments, stating the courts might not make a final decision this week. “We are saying that as the law stands it’s lawful for same sex couples to seek a marriage licence,” he said. “We have a very strong, arguable case on the face of the law.” While a ruling in the favour of his clients would open the door for other same-sex couples to apply for marriage licences, he said he would potentially seek an appeal if the decision goes against his clients.
2016. October 25. A judge has ruled that Preserve Marriage will be able to play a part in an upcoming judicial review case about same-sex marriage. Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons said that the charity, which opposes same-sex marriage on religious grounds, could join the Human Rights Commission as an “intervener” in the proceedings that will begin in December. Mrs Justice Simmons said the group had a “legitimate interest” in the matter, but added that the court maintained the jurisdiction to control its proceedings and stop “unnecessary and irrelevant” points being made. The proceedings have been brought by gay couple Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche against the Registrar-General for refusing to marry them on the grounds of their sexual orientation. The pair claim the Registrar’s refusal breaches the Human Rights Act and they are seeking an order from the Supreme Court to compel him to post their marriage banns, in accordance with the Marriage Act. They also want a declaration that same-sex couples are entitled to be married under that law. Yesterday morning Delroy Duncan, representing Preserve Marriage, said he had been instructed not to apply for costs despite the fact the group had won its application to take part in the proceedings. Last week Mr Duncan told the court: “Let’s make this what it is; it’s a national debate where interested parties with a real and legitimate interest in the outcome should be permitted to have their say.” Mark Pettingill, representing Mr Godwin and Mr DeRoche, dismissed the argument put forward by Preserve Marriage’s lawyer, saying: “We are dealing with a narrow issue; a contracted marriage before a registrar. They [Preserve Marriage] are not a proper party to assist the court in the legal issue it must determine.” Mr Pettingill also made an application for the charity to provide “security of costs” for the proceedings if it was allowed to be involved. He claimed Preserve Marriage’s legal fees were being funded by “third parties” and said the identities of those third parties should be revealed. But yesterday in court Mrs Justice Simmons said that there was no provision in law for the security of costs order to be made against an intervener. The substantive Judicial Review hearing has been set down to take place on December 8, 9 and 12.
2016. October 19. Opponents of same-sex marriage have been “blacklisted” by businesses and fear repercussions from the LGBT community for their views, a court heard yesterday. Delroy Duncan, lawyer for Preserve Marriage, made the claim in the Supreme Court, as he argued that the charity should not have to put up the costs for civil proceedings which it wishes to join as an interested party, nor reveal the identity of its donors. The proceedings were brought by gay couple Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche against the Registrar-General for refusing to marry them on the grounds of their sexual orientation. The pair claim the Registrar’s refusal breaches the Human Rights Act and they are seeking an order from the Supreme Court to compel him to post their marriage banns, in accordance with the Marriage Act. They also want a declaration that same-sex couples are entitled to be married under that law. The two men’s Judicial Review application is set to begin next Monday and yesterday’s hearing considered whether Preserve Marriage, which opposes same-sex marriage and civil unions on religious grounds, should be allowed to take part in the proceedings. At the end of the hearing, Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons reserved judgment on Preserve Marriage’s application, saying she expected to make a ruling later in the week and that the trial could possibly still go ahead on Monday. Mr Duncan told the court: “Let’s make this what it is; it’s a national debate where interested parties with a real and legitimate interest in the outcome should be permitted to have their say.” But Mark Pettingill, representing Mr Godwin and Mr DeRoche, dismissed the argument put forward by Preserve Marriage’s lawyer, saying: “We are dealing with a narrow issue; a contracted marriage before a registrar. They [Preserve Marriage] are not a proper party to assist the court in the legal issue it must determine.” Mr Pettingill also made an application for the charity to provide “security of costs” for the proceedings if it was allowed to be involved. He claimed Preserve Marriage’s legal fees were being funded by “third parties” and said the identities of those third parties should be revealed. But Mr Duncan said: “Members of Preserve Marriage who have publicly come out opposing same-sex marriage and civil unions have been blacklisted by businesses.” Mr Duncan added that disclosing the identity of donors would “invade the privacy of members of this community who support Preserve Marriage” and who feared “repercussions” from the LGBT community. He referred to a letter he had received from Preserve Marriage member Laura Dowling, a chiropractor, who told him members of the charity’s action team had been blacklisted and denied access to certain venues. “Her practice has been affected as well,” he said. “This is real. This is what’s going on in this case. The public square in Bermuda should be for everybody to have a say in matters that affect or potentially affect their interests.” Former Attorney-General Mr Pettingill argued that Preserve Marriage’s involvement would significantly extend the proceedings and that wasn’t fair on his clients. He said the charity had filed “voluminous” submissions which were not relevant to the “narrow issue” at hand and which he did not plan to read. “This is not a public debate,” the One Bermuda Alliance backbencher said. “This is not Speakers’ Corner. This is not a religious debate.” He suggested those represented by Mr Duncan were “bigots”, a phrase Preserve Marriage’s lawyer described as “very unfortunate”. Mr Pettingill said: “All that word means is they are opposed to a position somebody else has.” But Mrs Justice Simmons, who was hearing the arguments, said: “I think it’s a far more loaded word than that.” The Human Rights Commission is an intervener in the case and its lawyer, Rod Attride-Stirling, complained that Preserve Marriage had submitted evidence late on Monday and early yesterday, instead of giving counsel at least two days to consider it. “It’s impossible for us to state a considered position in relation to the application because we have not had a proper opportunity to consider the evidence,” Mr Attride-Stirling said. “[The submission] makes scandalous and false statements that my clients want to respond to correct the record. That evidence, quite frankly, should be struck out.” He described some of the material as “outrageous”, adding that some statements were false and others were “heavily disingenuous. It’s totally inappropriate that this sort of evidence should be used during this hearing. We have had no opportunity to respond.” Mr Duncan denied the evidence contained false statements. He said two countries which had settled the matter of same-sex marriage through the courts — the United States and South Africa — had allowed submissions from groups such as Preserve Marriage. And he said Mr Pettingill was “on public record” — in The Royal Gazette — as providing his services free of charge to Mr Godwin and Mr DeRoche, so the cost of the proceedings would not impact them. Mr Pettingill said he was not on the court record as providing his services pro bono and it was not the case. Mr Godwin’s and Mr DeRoche’s writ against the Registrar was filed days after a referendum on same-sex marriage and civil unions. The ballot was deemed unanswered because of low voter turnout. The Government has said it will defend the legal case on the grounds that a marriage service is not a service covered by the Human Rights Act. In his refusal letter to the couple, the Registrar cited the Matrimonial Causes Act, section 15 of which says a marriage is void if the parties are not male and female.
2016. September 16. Government lawyers will argue in court that the Registrar-General was right to refuse to marry a gay couple because marriage is not a “service” as defined in the Human Rights Act. Acting Solicitor-General Norman MacDonald told a Supreme Court hearing yesterday that the Bermuda Government would contest a legal bid by Bermudian Winston Godwin and his fiancé Greg DeRoche to have the Registrar’s decision overturned. The couple, represented by former Attorney-General Mark Pettingill, claim the Registrar breached the Human Rights Act by refusing to process their marriage application in July. The Act outlaws denying “goods, facilities or services” based on a person’s sexual orientation and Mr Pettingill, in his application to the court, said the Registrar had failed in his duties as the Registrar of Marriages. But Mr MacDonald told Chief Justice Ian Kawaley: “It’s the Crown’s position that the marriage service is not a service that is covered by the Human Rights Act.” Mr Pettingill had earlier told the court a full hearing on the issue should be held as soon as possible. “This is a human rights matter and I respectfully submit that it’s gone on too long and one day [more] on a human rights issue is too long, where there’s a certain segment of society which is not being allowed its fundamental human rights,” said the lawyer and government backbencher. “That’s something that must be addressed in earnest. It is clear as a pikestaff that services must be allowed for all people." All of this is . . . not convoluted. I would urge upon the court that we are ready to go today. I’d be more than happy; let’s argue it today.” Mr Godwin and Mr DeRoche are seeking an order of mandamus from the Supreme Court which would compel the Registrar to act in accordance with the Marriage Act and post their marriage banns. They also want a declaration that same-sex couples are entitled to be married under that law. Mr Pettingill likened their application for judicial review to an urgent writ of habeas corpus, seeking to have a person released from custody. “I put it in the same bracket,” he told the court, adding: “This issue should be clarified and heard in short order.” Mr MacDonald asked for 21 days to file a reply affidavit and for any court hearing to happen in November or December. He said: “The issue is not clear as a pikestaff, as he says.” Mr Justice Kawaley said he would give the Attorney-General’s Chambers 14 days to file its affidavit, adding that the full hearing should take place in October on a date to be set. Mr Godwin and Mr DeRoche, who are being represented pro bono by Mr Pettingill, filed their civil suit just days after the June 23 referendum on same-sex relationships, when the turnout was less than 50 per cent and the questions were deemed unanswered. Of those who voted, 69 per cent were against same-sex marriage and 63 per cent were against same-sex civil unions. If the couple’s case is heard next month, a decision from the court could come before MPs return to Parliament on November 4.
2016. September 1. The number of venues that civil marriage ceremonies can be conducted has been expanded by the Registry General with the passing of the Marriage Amendment Act 2016. Under the Marriage Act 1944, civil marriage ceremonies were only permitted to be conducted in the Registrar’s office. The Ministry of Home Affairs has advised that marriages contracted before the Registrar General can now be held at alternate approved locations which include: Admiralty House Park, Arboretum, Astwood Park, Blue Hole Hill Park, Botanical Gardens, Chaplin Bay, Church Bay, Clocktower Mall Dockyard, Devonshire Bay Park, Elbow Beach (the public beach as accessed from Tribe Road 4B Paget), Ferry Point Park, Fort St. Catherine beach, Great Head Park, Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Park, Horseshoe Bay, John Smith’s Bay, Jobson’s Cove, Scaur Hill Fort Park, Shelly Bay beach, Somerset Long Bay, Spanish Point Park, Stonehole Bay, St. David’s Lighthouse Park, Tobacco Bay, Victualling Yard in Dockyard, and Warwick Long Bay. Parties wishing to contract marriage in the presence of the Registrar for these venues must submit the fee of $450 to the Registry General, at least 14 days prior to the proposed date of marriage. The fee is in addition to $368 fee which is required to be submitted with the Notice of Intended Marriage Application form. A Ministry of Home Affairs spokeswoman said: “The onus is on the parties to be wed to obtain written permission from the owner or occupier of the venue (eg Wedco or Ministry of Public Works) and notify the Registrar accordingly of the date. The time will be confirmed by Registry General staff. In addition parties are responsible for arranging the logistics of set-up and any other features related to the wedding. The Registry General Office will only be responsible for providing a table, chair and relevant documents for signature. In the event of inclement weather, prohibiting an outdoor wedding, the alternate venue for the marriage will be the Registry General.” In such cases, the marriage ceremony fee will be reduced to $245 which is the fee applicable to marriages conducted within the Registry General. For more information on fees associated with civil marriage ceremonies visit https://www.gov.bm/content/apply-marriage-licence).
2016. August 31. A gay Bermudian and his fiancé have been granted leave to argue in the Supreme Court that they should be allowed to wed on the island. Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche, who live in Toronto, had their application to marry rejected by the Registrar-General last month and their lawyer Mark Pettingill sought leave to apply for a judicial review of the decision. Mr Pettingill told The Royal Gazette yesterday: “We are pleased but not surprised that the court has granted leave and look forward to the full hearing of this important human rights issue. I think the entire gay community and all right-thinking people generally will be supportive of it and want to see it pursued.” The Government backbencher, who is providing his services pro bono to the couple, said the couple’s application would be an important test case for the island and he was now preparing his case for when the hearing takes place. The former Attorney-General filed a writ on behalf of the couple with the Supreme Court in July, backed up by affidavits from Mr Godwin and Mr De Roche. The action seeks to have a judge overturn the refusal of the Registrar-General to process the marriage application, in accordance with the Marriage Act 1944, and issue an order requiring him to do so. The couple claim the Registrar has failed in his duties and should be made to act in accordance with the Marriage Act, on the grounds that it is discriminatory under the Human Rights Act for him to refuse to process the application based on their sexual orientation. In his refusal letter, the Registrar cited the Matrimonial Causes Act, section 15 of which says a marriage is void if the parties are not male and female.
2016. July 14. Chief Justice Ian Kawaley has released a full judgment explaining why he didn’t stop the referendum on same-sex relationships from going ahead despite it being held in a “somewhat shabby and shambolic fashion”. The 44-page verdict expands on Mr Justice Kawaley’s reasons for rejecting a legal bid by the Centre for Justice to stop the June 23 referendum or postpone it to a later date. He wrote that the referendum could be held without offending the Constitution or the Human Rights Act and though it would “likely interfere with some freedom of expression and freedom of association rights” it was not to the extent that merited stopping it from happening altogether. “In the context of deciding whether the referendum . . . should or should not be restrained, the rule of law, in fact, required the court to respect the fact that political judgments are for politicians, not judges, to make. There is room for judicial activism when entertaining applications to enforce statutory human rights. There is a need for judicial restraint when courts are invited to thwart the lawfully articulated will of Parliament.” He added it would be inconsistent with established principles governing the relationship between the judiciary and the legislature for the “judiciary to trespass on the proper domain of the executive and judicial branches of government”; to do so, he said, would be unconstitutional. Elsewhere in the judgment, the Chief Justice said the application for judicial review by the Centre of Justice “raised complicated issues of considerable public importance which were argued and decided within a necessarily compressed timeframe”. The referendum asked voters if they were in favour of same-sex marriage and if they were in favour of same-sex civil unions. The turnout for the non-binding ballot was 46.89 per cent and, of those who voted, 69 per cent were against same-sex marriage and 63 per cent were against civil unions. Mr Justice Kawaley described the referendum as being “organised in a somewhat shabby and shambolic fashion with little or no apparent regard for good referendum practice” and suggested the Premier should have set up a committee to oversee how it was run. But in relation to the Centre’s claim that it was “repugnant to certain fundamental rights of individuals at common law,” he concluded there was no reason for the courts to intervene to stop it. “Bermuda’s Parliament is competent to override common law rights by clearly drafted legislation, subject to three important caveats,” he wrote. The caveats, he said, were that Parliament’s law making powers were subject to the Constitution, could not be exercised in a way which conflicted with any UK laws which extend to Bermuda and “cannot effectively be exercised in a way with conflicts with the Human Rights Act 1981, unless Parliament expressly provides that the relevant law is not subject to the primacy provisions of the 1981 Act”. He said it was open to any interested party to challenge the referendum results. The judgment refers to an earlier observation made by the Chief Justice that “Bermuda appears to be under a positive international law duty under article of the ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights) to create some coherent legal framework for the recognition of same-sex relationships formed by Bermudians”. Mr Justice Kawaley said those observations formed no part of his decision in the Bermuda Bred Company case, in which he ordered that same-sex partners of Bermudians be given the same immigration and employment rights as heterosexual spouses, and which was “solely concerned with the Bermuda domestic law position”.
2016. July 13. Finance minister and Deputy Premier Bob Richards believes gay couples should have all the same legal rights as heterosexual spouses — but they should not be granted the right to marry. Mr Richards is one of several One Bermuda Alliance politicians to give his opinion on same-sex marriage following a successful vote to amend the Human Rights Act to solidify marriage as being between a man and a woman. National security minister Senator Jeffrey Baron, MP Suzann Roberts Holshouser and MP Mark Pettingill all gave varying views on the outcome of the vote and the issue of same-sex marriage in Bermuda. Mr Richards voted for the amendment, brought by Progressive Labour Party MP Wayne Furbert, to go ahead but he has been a vocal supporter of civil unions in the past. He acknowledged that civil unions do not grant equal rights but said that was something that could be ironed out on in the future. Mr Richards told The Royal Gazette: “Marriage is intrinsically, in its very nature, between a man and a woman and I don’t think it can be reformed into something it is not. This is not a religious standpoint — a lot of people have an opinion as it relates to religion. I am a Christian, I go to church. You look in the bible and it is replete with examples of people being married who aren’t Christian. Look at the world we have today there are not just Christians . . . every religion, every culture has marriage between a man and a woman. Marriage is a construct by the human species to do two things — to obey the dictates of nature, to procreate, and to socialize children. That is what marriage is about when you step back and look at it in totality.” Mr Richards added that except for the right to be granted marital status, same-sex couples should have no fewer rights. “I think that gay couples should have all of the rights and privileges provided under law for married couples. I don’t want to deny them those legal structures. Civil union does get us there to a certain extent but those things can be fixed. We haven’t even got to civil unions yet so let’s not run before we can walk. I am disappointed it didn’t get to civil unions. I have always been of the opinion that gay people should have their civil rights. We live in a pluralistic society and we have to take account for people that are different from us and I think that is key. It is who we are as humans and I believe I am maybe the only person in my party with this point of view.” The amendment is yet to be approved by the Senate and will then have to be signed off by the Governor. OBA senator and Minister of National Senator Baron has already said that he intends to vote against the amendments in the Senate on Thursday, saying: “I respect the fact there are strong opinions on this issue. In my view, human rights are indivisible and this is an issue of human rights. Every single Bermudian and persons who call Bermuda home — gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgender — every one of them deserves to be treated equally in the eyes of our laws and in the eyes of our diverse society. It is, for me, really that simple. I support same sex marriage and as I have previously stated, will vote against the bill passed in the House when it comes before the Senate”. Ms Roberts-Holshouser could not vote in the House on Friday night as she was Acting Speaker, but told this newspaper she would not have supported the amendment. “I certainly would have voted against the bill,” she said. “I do not understand how individuals are able to be selective in what one would discriminate against. You can’t be selective and it is very sad. I certainly would have voted against the bill to change the Human Rights Act, absolutely. One of the things that is necessary to understand is that it was a conscience vote and as a result you have to respect one another. The one thing that is beneficial about the One Bermuda Alliance is the ability to recognise and accept the fact that people think differently and we have a right to think differently and have a responsibility to not follow like sheep. We are a group of individuals who are different and diversified.” Mr Pettingill has been an active supporter of same-sex marriage and believes that, regardless of whether the amendment is ultimately approved, there could be a constitutional argument to overrule the decision. He said: “The bill has constitutional issues that clearly prevent it from being valid. The Senate, in properly performing its function, should address that.”
2016. July 13. A young Bermudian told yesterday how he and his fiancé wanted to help “make a difference” by becoming the first gay couple to argue in court for the right to marry here. Winston Godwin, 26, who grew up in Sandys and now lives in Toronto, told The Royal Gazette: “This is something that can impact and affect so many people in a positive way. I would love to be able to come back to Bermuda and work and contribute to a place that has given me so much. Unfortunately, as it stands, it’s one of those things that’s just not possible at the moment. I would just like to have our marriage recognized as just as equal as anybody else’s.” Mr Godwin got engaged last month after his boyfriend, Greg DeRoche, 29, proposed to him on a visit to the island. The couple, who have been together for a year and a half, were enjoying a romantic walk along the beach at Cooper’s Island, skipping rocks across the waves, when Mr DeRoche popped the question. “We had talked about it a little beforehand and joked about it. I said, ‘Are you being serious? If you are being serious, then, yes, absolutely!’ I couldn’t imagine spending my life with anyone else.” Soon after their engagement, Mr Godwin saw an appeal on social media from campaigner Tony Brannon for a gay couple to come forward to test the law of the land in relation to same-sex marriage. Mr Godwin said: “We had never really considered Bermuda because of it not being legally recognized but we said, ‘Why not? It would be kind of cool to do’. It’s something that’s bigger than both of us. We could easily have gotten married in Canada, no problem, no questions asked, but we figured if there was something we could help to do to make a difference, why not try to fight for that?” Lawyer and former Attorney-General Mark Pettingill is now representing the couple, pro bono, and he filed notice of their intended marriage with the Registrar-General last week. The application was rejected and Mr Pettingill has since filed a writ with the Supreme Court seeking a declaratory judgment on whether the Registrar’s refusal to provide the couple with the service of marriage on the basis of their sexual orientation breached the Human Rights Act. Mr Godwin said he and Mr DeRoche were preparing affidavits to support their case and were willing to come to the island to testify in court if necessary. In the meantime, he had a message for those who say they don’t believe in same-sex marriage. “It’s not something for you to believe in. I’m not Santa Claus or the Easter bunny. This is me. I’m a real person, a human being, expressing human feelings. “I’m a person, just like you and how can you tell me I’m less than you because of who I love? I don’t say ‘who I choose to love’ because it’s not a choice. My being gay: I have as much choice in that as I do being black. It’s like being left-handed or right-handed; being a woman versus a man.” Mr Godwin, an aquarist who works at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada and the recipient of several local scholarships and awards, said he was an example of a young Bermudian who was part of the “brain drain” from the island, pursuing a career elsewhere after having “so much invested into them” here. “Bermuda still feels like home,” said the former Saltus Grammar School student. “I would eventually love to come back and give back to an island that has given me so many opportunities. I’m never ever ruling Bermuda out of the question. But, as it stands right now, I can’t do that and be happy.” He compared life in Toronto, where he and Mr DeRoche can walk unnoticed hand-in-hand down the street, with being in Bermuda and “not being able to be completely ... yourself because society tells you that you are less than them”. Mr Godwin went to boarding school and university in Canada and said it was always possible for him to “escape” from the island. But he added: “A lot of Bermudians that might be in a similar position, struggling to come to grips with themselves, they don’t really have that escape. It’s tough living in that sort of climate 24/7.” That knowledge, he said, spurred him and his fiancé on to get involved with Mr Pettingill’s legal challenge. Describing his involvement in what could be an historic case, he admitted: “It’s nerve-racking, for sure. It’s something that ruffles a lot of feathers. It’s something that people aren’t used to. It’s something that’s out of the norm. It shouldn’t be, because it’s just an equal rights thing.”
2016. July 9. Amendments aimed at solidifying marriage as between a man and a woman were passed in the House of Assembly last night, despite vocal opposition. And in the wake of the vote, One Bermuda Alliance backbencher Mark Pettingill said he is ashamed of his party. “How it will affect my position [in the One Bermuda Alliance] over the summer, I don’t know,” he said. The amendments, tabled by Wayne Furbert and further amended by Trevor Moniz, the Attorney-General, state that nothing in the Human Rights Act would override the provisions of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1974, which provides that marriages are void unless they are between a man and a woman. A total of 20 MPs voted in favour of the amended Bill with ten, including Mr Moniz, voting against it. Michael Dunkley, the Premier, abstained from voting, telling the House that he had asked Mr Furbert to set back the Bill for a week so he could discuss the matter with the Human Rights Commission. Marc Bean and Zane DeSilva were not present, while Deputy Speaker Suzann Roberts Holshouser was unable to vote because she was serving as Speaker at the time. The vote came after almost two hours of debate in which parliamentarians spoke out strongly on both sides of the issue. Mr Pettingill, the Progressive Labour Party’s Walton Brown and independent MP Shawn Crockwell voiced vociferous opposition to the legislation, which they argued was a retrograde step for human rights on the island. Opening his speech by reading the opening paragraph of the Human Rights Act, Mr Pettingill said that everyone on the island deserved the same rights, regardless of sexual orientation. “It’s a human rights issue because of what our Human Rights Act says,” he said. “That every human being is entitled to the same service as any human being.” Mr Crockwell, meanwhile, said that the amendments being debated were in themselves discriminatory. “We are in breach of the Human Rights Act if we pass this,” he said. “We will look regressive, we will look unfriendly and we will look intolerant.” And Mr Brown said that human rights should not be trampled by the will of the majority, calling the legislation offensive. “If we don’t do it, the courts will do it anyway,” he said. “How embarrassing would that be? Our responsibility is to lead. We cannot allow the courts to do it because we don’t have the conviction.” They were joined by several other OBA members, including Grant Gibbons, Glenn Smith and Patricia Gordon Pamplin, who spoke out against the amendments. However, Mr Furbert was joined by Craig Cannonier, Sylvan Richards and Wayne Scott, who said the matter was not one of human rights. Mr Furbert told the House that while the recent referendum may not have been officially answered, it clearly showed the direction the public want to go in. Noting the Premier’s insistence on speaking with the Human Rights Commission before casting a vote, he said: “I heard the people say loud and clear where they want to stand. I’m not listening to three people when 10,000 people already said no.” He further stated that same-sex marriage is not a human rights issue, saying the majority of legislation states under the European Convention of Human Rights had established marriage as between a man and a woman. Stating his opposition to same-sex marriage, Mr Cannonier also cited the referendum. “When the people speak, we must listen to bring good legislation to the table,” he said. And Mr Scott said that when he brought forward amendments to the Human Rights Act to prevent discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, the intent was not to allow same-sex marriage. Mr Pettingill, who as a lawyer represents a gay couple seeking to marry on the island, said the vote would not deter him from pursuing the matter through the courts. However he told The Royal Gazette he was ashamed to see members of his own party vote against the matter. “I generally knew the PLP would vote that way,” he said. “Walton Brown and Michael Scott were courageous. You have got to expect nothing less; they are intellectuals. I’m galled and completely ashamed of members on my side of the House. They didn’t have the sensibility to stand up on this issue. A lot of that was driven by the fact that they are just looking at the political position on votes and that’s equally disgusting. I’m reflecting on this. I feel very bruised right now and saddened and, frankly, astounded that I’m associated with so many narrow-minded people; people I consider to be my friends. It’s astounding to discover that people can be that narrow-minded. This hurts me, I feel very hurt that this is what our Parliament has chosen to do. I don’t necessarily believe that the Governor will assent to this nonsense, given the UK’s position on this. It’s not law yet. This doesn’t impact on the position on the matter still going to court [Godwin and DeRoche marriage application].” How they voted over issue:
• Speaker Randy Horton was absent, meaning Suzann Roberts Holshouser (OBA) was Acting Speaker and did not vote. Susan Jackson (OBA) was Committee Chair and did not vote.
2016. July 8. An application by a gay couple to get married in Bermuda has been rejected by the Government. Bermudian Winston Godwin, 26, and his fiancé Greg DeRoche, 29, who live in Toronto, filed notice of their intended marriage with Registrar-General Aubrey Pennyman on Monday. The application was accompanied by a letter from the couple’s lawyer Mark Pettingill, which asked Mr Pennyman to make clear his “intentions” within two days as to whether he would post notice of their marriage. The Royal Gazette understands that Mr Pennyman has written back to Mr Pettingill, telling him he is not prepared to post the marriage banns, in accordance with the Marriage Act. The Registrar’s letter is believed to cite the Matrimonial Causes Act, section 15 of which says a marriage is void if the parties are not male and female. The matter is now likely to go before the Supreme Court, with Mr Pettingill expected to seek a declaratory judgment to determine exactly what the position is in law. He will also probably apply for a court order which, if issued, would require Mr Pennyman to perform his statutory duties and allow the men to marry. Government backbencher Mr Pettingill, a former Attorney-General, has previously said that since the Human Rights Act bans discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and has primacy over all other laws, gay couples cannot be denied the service of marriage. Mr Pennyman’s letter, it is understood, made no reference to the Human Rights Act. Last month, a referendum was held on same-sex relationships with a voter turnout of 46.89 per cent. Of those who voted, 69 per cent were against same-sex marriage and 63 per cent were against same-sex civil unions. Michael Dunkley, the Premier, said the day before the ballot: “Any outcome is the will of the people and will guide their elected officials accordingly. As we have said in the town hall meeting[s], if there is a ‘no’ vote it will potentially open up challenges in the courts and the courts will ultimately decide.” Human Rights Commission representatives are due to meet with Mr Dunkley early next week to discuss how Bermuda will recognise same-sex relationships. Chairwoman Tawana Tannock told this newspaper the meeting would focus on “next steps”, adding: “Legislation is one of the things that we will be discussing.” “We have some suggestions,” she said. “Right now, we are trying to ascertain what the Government’s timeline is for ensuring that same-sex couples have legal recognition.” She said the HRC had, before and after the referendum, carried out its mandate to educate and raise awareness about equality issues. “Regardless of the referendum, we always have a mandate to ensure that rights are protected. Our main goal always remains advancement for all rights issues. The result doesn’t change government’s legal obligation. Something needs to be implemented to reflect government’s legal obligation.” It wasn’t possible to reach Mr Pennyman, Mr Pettingill or the couple for comment before going to press last night.
2016. June 29. Two same-sex couples are expected to apply to wed in Bermuda in the coming days and are likely to appeal directly to the courts if they are not given permission to marry. The couples — one female and one male — will be represented by former Attorney-General Mark Pettingill, the lawyer and MP who has vowed not to rest after last week’s referendum result until there are equal human rights for all. The marriage applications and the likely court proceedings that could follow may settle the same-sex marriage issue without legislators getting involved, as many have predicted. The referendum on June 23 failed to officially answer whether Bermudian voters were for or against same-sex marriage or civil unions, as the turnout was less than 50 per cent. Mr Pettingill told The Royal Gazette he could not comment on the “anticipated” marriage applications but said: “I have always believed that marriage is a legal issue and not a religious issue. I believe that in light of that, it’s a matter that will be best addressed by the courts. “Consequently, I take the view that the Human Rights Act has primacy and that the Registrar[-General] must provide services in accordance with the Marriage Act.” The Marriage Act requires the Registrar-General to post notice of any intended marriage in the Registry-General for two weeks and to advertise the nuptials in a newspaper within three days of receiving notice of it. Mr Pettingill previously represented a different couple, Bermudian Ijumo Hayward and his American partner, Clarence Williams III, when they applied to wed here in December. The One Bermuda Alliance backbencher sent a covering letter with their application to Registrar-General Aubrey Pennyman, which said if their intended marriage was not advertised in accordance with the law, the couple would seek a Supreme Court order to force him to perform his statutory duty. Mr Pennyman did not issue the required notices and Mr Pettingill was told that the Registrar was taking advice from the Attorney-General’s chambers. Mr Hayward and Mr Williams are already married in the United States and it is understood that their application is unlikely to proceed any farther. The two new couples to be represented by Mr Pettingill are not married and are likely to argue, if their cases come to court, that the Registrar-General is in breach of the Human Rights Act for denying them “goods, facilities or services” based on their sexual orientation. But the timing of any court proceedings relating to their applications could be critical since the Bermuda Government has already tabled legislation — an amendment to the Matrimonial Causes Act — which would allow discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in relation to weddings. The proposed amendment, which is on the order paper of the House of Assembly, would remove the supremacy of the Human Rights Act in relation to section 15 of the Matrimonial Causes Act, which says a marriage is void if the parties are not male and female. Michael Dunkley would not comment yesterday on whether the Government would proceed with that piece of legislation, or with the draft Civil Union Act 2016, which was tabled for consultation purposes in February. The Premier told this newspaper: “I and my parliamentary colleagues continue to deliberate on [the] matter.” The turnout for the referendum was 46.89 per cent, meaning the two questions on the ballot paper were deemed to be unanswered. Of those who voted, 69 per cent were against same-sex marriage and 63 per cent were against same-sex civil unions. Mr Dunkley said last week of the referendum: “Any outcome is the will of the people and will guide their elected officials accordingly. As we have said in the town hall meeting[s], if there is a ‘no’ vote, it will potentially open up challenges in the courts and the courts will ultimately decide.” Mr Pettingill, meanwhile, told Parliament on Friday: “I won’t rest until this issue is addressed.”
2016. June 17. Regardless of how the public vote in the referendum next week on whether or not to allow same-sex marriages, the Bermuda Government will be obliged to find some form of legal foundation to accommodate same-sex couples who are in permanent relationships. Trevor Moniz, Attorney-General, said last night that the One Bermuda Alliance had tabled its consultation Bill on civil unions because it was felt that the majority of Bermudians would favour the partnerships over outright same-sex marriage. “We were trying to show the courts we were doing our level best to meet the requirements of the law as enunciated by the Chief Justice in the Bermuda Bred case,” Mr Moniz told a gathering at the Bermuda College, where home affairs minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin was presenting information on the June 23 referendum. That ruling by Chief Justice Ian Kawaley found that non-Bermudian same-sex partners of Bermudians who are in permanent relationships are entitled to live and work in Bermuda free of immigration control. Asked if this meant that civil unions were unavoidable, Mr Moniz said: “It’s not inevitable. There must be some sort of legal framework for same-sex couples in same-sex relationships. If we don’t provide a framework, then the courts will step in. In each case as they come up, if same-sex couples are treated differently from heterosexual couples, then the courts will strike them down as discriminatory. It might be inheritance or owning land, or any one of hundreds of different ways.” If the Bermudian public vote no on both same-sex marriage and civil unions, the Attorney-General and the Cabinet would face a quandary, given amendments two years ago to the Human Rights Act, which outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation. “Do we want to go backwards by trying to undo the amendment to the Human Rights Act, or be in breach of the European Convention? Is there some other form of legal framework that might be acceptable if civil union is not acceptable? We will have a difficult decision to make.” If the Government failed to settle on some arrangement for same-sex couples, Mr Moniz said the court challenges that would follow would amount to “a death by a thousand cuts”.
2016. June 17. The campaign against same-sex marriage has an eight-point lead over the campaign in favour, according to a poll commissioned by Bermuda's newspapwe The Royal Gazette. However, those in favour of same-sex civil unions outnumber those against by 13 percentage points, in the survey carried out by Global Research between June 6 and 13. Pollsters asked 402 registered voters the same two questions they will face at the referendum on Thursday next week. Responding to the first question, “Are you in favour of same-sex marriage in Bermuda?” 41 per cent said yes, 49 per cent said no and 10 per cent did not know. Responding to the second question, “Are you in favour of same-sex civil unions in Bermuda?”, 52 per cent said yes, 39 per cent no and 9 per cent did not know. The margin of error for the poll is +/- 5 per cent. The same-sex marriage question has produced close results in all surveys commissioned by this newspaper over the past year. Three months ago, 45 per cent of people said they were in favour, with 48 per cent against. Last October, 48 per cent were in favour, with 44 per cent against. A breakdown of the new results shows most support for same-sex marriage comes from whites and younger people. Among whites, 71 per cent were in favour and 19 per cent against; among blacks, 25 per cent were in favour and 66 per cent against. Among people aged between 18 and 34, 50 per cent were in favour and 44 per cent against; among people aged over 65, 27 per cent were in favour and 63 per cent against. Among men, 42 per cent were in favour and 47 per cent against; among women, 41 per cent were in favour and 51 per cent against. Regarding same-sex civil unions, the white population was overwhelmingly in favour, with 82 per cent agreeing and 12 per cent opposing. Among blacks, 35 per cent were in favour, with 53 per cent against. Our poll also canvassed people’s opinions on whether or not a referendum on same-sex should even take place; the Centre for Justice has argued it breaches the constitution, the Human Rights Act and common law. More people were in opposition to the idea of a referendum, with 43 per cent supporting it, 45 per cent against it and 12 per cent unsure. In the previous poll in March, 58 per cent agreed with a referendum, 34 per cent disagreed and 8 per cent did not know.
January 18, 2018.
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