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Bermuda Flag

Bermuda Marriages for residents and registry office or cruise ship weddings for visitors

Changes are pending to now allow same-sex ceremonies after decades of men-women only unions

By Keith Archibald Forbes (see About Us) exclusively for Bermuda Online

Bermuda wedding

A happy Bride and Bridegroom after a Bermuda wedding, photo Bermuda Tourism

Bermuda wedding cake on a beach

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.  

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. 

Bermuda Wedding via a Moongate 2Bermuda Wedding

A Bermuda Moongate wedding is a unique piece of Bermudiana

Application, eligibility for and basic costs of a Bermuda civil (not religious) marriage

Wedding ringsThe 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.

Bermuda marriage

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. 

Bermuda marriage 2

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:

Who in Bermuda can perform the marriage

marriage in Bermuda by horse and carriage

Wedding couple in St. George's, Bermuda, outside old ruined church

Civil ceremonies may be performed in the Registry General's Marriage Room. Call 441 297 7709 or 441 297 7707 or Email kminors@gov.bm 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

Married in Bermuda, by a church minister

Ensure you have two Witnesses

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.

Blood tests and publicity

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. 

Official local Public Notices

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. 

Differences between North American and Bermuda application procedures

For weddings in the USA, where most of those getting married in Bermuda come from, there is a requirement for various legal reasons to show social security numbers of both consenting parties. This is not a requirement in Bermuda. But  the "Notice of Intended Marriage" is made completely public, anyone is at liberty to refer to it or pass it on.

How marriages/weddings are celebrated in Bermuda

A marriage ceremony in the Registrar General's officeBermudians, 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

Bermuda Moongate at Tobacco Bay, showing a newly-married Maine couple. Photo copyrighted by this author.

Bermuda Moongate by Lladro

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.

Honeymoon heaven

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).

Marriage Proposal and marriage music

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

Others include: 

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
Canon Various Pachelbel
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
Romance Nana Mouskouri Basin
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

Marriage anniversaries

Birthstones, month & flowers of loved ones

Garnet January Carnation
Amethyst February Violet
Aquamarine March Daffodil
Diamond April Sweet Pea
Emerald May  Lily of the Valley
Pearl June Rose
Ruby July Larkspur
Peridot August Gladiolus
Sapphire September Aster
Opal October  Calendula
Topaz November Chrysanthemum
Turquoise   December Narcissus

Traditional Anniversary gifts

Year Traditional Modern
First paper Clocks
Second  Cotton  China
Third   Leather Crystal, Glass
Fourth   Flowers Electric Appliances
Fifth   Wood Silverware
Sixth   Candy, Iron Wood
Seventh  Copper, Wool Desk Sets
Eighth   Bronze, Pottery Linens
Ninth  Pottery, Willow  Leather
Tenth   Tin, Aluminum Diamond Jewelry
Eleventh  Steel  Fashion Jewelry
Twelfth Silk, Linen Pearl
Thirteenth Lace Textiles, Furs
Fourteenth   Ivory Gold Jewelry
Fifteenth Crystal Watches
Twentieth  China Platinum
Twenty-fifth Silver Silver
Thirtieth Pearl  Pearl
Thirty-fifth Coral Jade
Fortieth Ruby  Ruby
Forty-fifth Sapphire Sapphire
Fiftieth Gold  Gold
Fifty-fifth Emerald Emerald
Sixtieth Diamond Diamond
Seventy-fifth Diamond Diamond

Marriages/Weddings at sea

Please note that on those ships registered in Bermuda, marriages cannot be allowed if they are for same-sex couples. Bermuda law does not recognize such ceremonies, irrespective of what the ships refer to as marriages. When the ships concerned are registered in Bermuda, they have to follow Bermuda laws re marriages.

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 to members of the opposite sex 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. 

Marriage vows renewals

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.

Marrying a Bermudian

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. 

Tip - if visitors, note Bermuda Customs restrictions

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 exported from Bermuda within their maximum 21 day visit. Only goods which are intended to remain in Bermuda will be dutiable. Most goods are subject to duty at 35% of the value. Guests not sure of Bermuda's very tight restrictions re drugs, narcotics, other illegal imports and limitations in what they can legally import duty-free should read Illegal Imports.

Timeline on Marriage-related legislated or pending changes

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 humanrights@gov.bm.

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:

Voted Yes

Voted No

Abstain

Absent

• 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.

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