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By Keith Archibald Forbes (see About Us) exclusively for Bermuda Online
Traditional Bermuda wedding cake
Couples - men and women - are warmly welcomed in Bermuda for marriages and/or honeymoons. Only a marriage between a man and a woman is recognized. Same-sex marriages are not valid, not recognized and will not be performed. There is no such thing as a common law spouse in Bermuda. Note that Bermuda has local, not UK laws on marriage and divorce.
2017. February 2. Changing the law on same-sex marriage could open the door for “multiple partner marriages” on the island, lawyer Delroy Duncan told a packed Supreme Court yesterday. Mr Duncan, representing the charity Preserve Marriage, which opposes same-sex marriage and civil unions, said: “I say this not mockingly or jokingly.” He noted that four Supreme Court justices in the United States had raised such concerns when same-sex marriage was made legal there. “We have to ask ourselves whether this legislation is permissive of such marriages or whether or not what you are being asked to do could open the door to multiple partner marriages.” He said the common-law definition of marriage was that it was between a man and a woman, and the Registrar-General had to judge each marriage application in that context. Mr Duncan was speaking on the third day of a case brought by Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé, Greg DeRoche. The couple are fighting for the right to wed on the island and claim their human rights have been breached by the Registrar’s refusal to post their marriage banns. They are seeking an order from the Supreme Court to compel the Registrar to post their marriage banns, as well as issue a declaration that same-sex couples are entitled to wed here. The civil proceedings concluded yesterday, with Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons expected to deliver her ruling within the next six weeks. Mr Duncan started the day by arguing Parliament must decide on the issue of same-sex marriage “through the ballot box”. He said the Bermuda Supreme Court was being asked to become only the second court in the world — after the United States — to decide the matter through the courts, rather than the legislature. “There is no doubt that this is a great and important moment in the history of this country. There is no doubt that we need to grapple with the issues in this case with compassion, fairness and understanding for both sides of the aisle.” He said his clients held no “ill will” for members of the same-sex community and were intervening in the case owing to strongly held beliefs on the meaning of marriage. “The court is being asked to redefine marriage for the purposes of those who seek same-sex marriage,” Mr Duncan said. “This court is facing a cultural challenge of monumental proportions. That challenge has reared its head in the guise of this application.” He cited Bermuda’s Caribbean roots and said a “cultural clash” was at the heart of the marriage equality debate. Mr Duncan cautioned that there would be “no reason” why same-sex couples could not request a religious wedding if the judge amended the legislation to make such unions legal, questioning whether churches would have legal protection allowing them to refuse such requests. Mr Duncan said the law on this issue needed to be developed in an orderly way — by legislators, rather than “piecemeal” in the courts — to “ensure that the protection is upfront for the religious community”. The couple’s case hinges, in part, on the Human Rights Act prohibiting discrimination in the provision of goods and services on the grounds of sexual orientation. The plaintiffs say the Registrar’s marriage duties constitute a service, as defined by the Act, while the Government has argued that not to be the case. Mr Duncan said that the Registrar, in making a determination on marriage, was carrying out a function that only a government official could do. He questioned if the court would have the power to fulfil the plaintiff’s request, saying that while allowing same-sex and unmarried couples to adopt required a simple striking out of marriage, allowing same-sex marriage would require more comprehensive changes in the law. He also took aim at the Human Rights Commission’s comparison of same-sex marriage to interracial marriage, saying that some found the comparison offensive. Responding, lawyer Mark Pettingill, representing the plaintiffs, said that Mr Duncan had repeatedly “picked the plums from the duff” by relying on dissenting opinions in his arguments rather than those in the majority. He argued that the rights of a same-sex couple to marry would not interfere with the rights of people to practise their religion, saying the two can and should coexist. The courtroom at the Dame Lois Browne-Evans building was packed to capacity, with members of the public having to sit in areas normally reserved for jurors, witnesses and the media. Those watching the case included Mr Godwin, Opposition MPs Wayne Furbert and Kim Wilson, and gay rights activist Mark Anderson. The Government is represented by Deputy Solicitor-General Shakira Dill-Francois. Preserve Marriage is an intervener in the case, as is the Human Rights Commission, represented by Rod Attride-Stirling.
2017. February 1. The Registrar-General cannot post marriage banns for gay couples because such unions are null and void under Bermuda’s existing laws, a court heard yesterday. Deputy Solicitor-General Shakira Dill-Francois, representing the Bermuda Government in a civil action brought against it by a same-sex couple, told a Supreme Court hearing that under section 33 of the Marriage Act 1944 it was an offence for the Registrar to authorize a marriage, knowing it was void. She said the Matrimonial Causes Act 1974, in section 15, clearly set out the grounds on which a marriage was void, including if “the parties are not respectively male and female. Why would the Registrar proceed to register a marriage that is, in fact, void?” asked Ms Dill-Francois, adding that the two pieces of legislation had to be read and understood together. Ms Dill-Francois was giving her submissions on the second day of a case brought by Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé, Greg DeRoche, who are represented by former Attorney-General Mark Pettingill. The couple want the right to marry on the island and are seeking an order from the Supreme Court to compel the Registrar to post their marriage banns, as well as issue a declaration that same-sex couples are entitled to wed here. Mr Pettingill told Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons on Monday that the Human Rights Act 1981, which bans discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods and services, had primacy over all other laws. But Ms Dill-Francois said it was important to consider the intent of legislators when they amended the Human Rights Act in 2013 to include sexual orientation in the list of protected classes. Quoting from Hansard, the official parliamentary transcript, she read comments made in the House of Assembly by the Attorney-General at the time: Mr Pettingill. He had told MPs: “This government considers marriage to be between a man and a woman only. This government will not be issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples.” In court yesterday, Mr Pettingill got to his feet to acknowledge that it was he who was being quoted but he asked Ms Dill-Francois, to read on to include a further remark he made in Parliament on the subject of same-sex marriage: “It’s a different debate for a different day.” Ms Dill-Francois said: “I’m not reading this section to in any way cast aspersions on my learned friend. The reason I am reading it is to show what the purpose of the amendment was for.” She added: “It’s the duty of the court to accept the purposes decided on by Parliament.” The Deputy Solicitor-General argued that posting marriage banns and issuing marriage licences was not a “service” as defined by the Human Rights Act. Ms Dill-Francois said the Act applied to civil servants as it applied to “acts done by private persons” but that was limited and did not include functions carried out by the Government only. “Parliament did not intend for governmental functions to be considered services,” she insisted. Earlier, the court heard from Rod Attride-Stirling, representing the Human Rights Commission as an intervener in the case. He recalled comments made by former Progressive Labour Party leader Dame Lois Browne-Evans when the Stubbs Bill was passed to decriminalize sexual acts between men: “Human rights are for all people.” Mr Attride-Stirling asked: “What would Dame Lois say about this case? I think it’s clear.” He turned to the United Kingdom and said since same-sex marriage was introduced there, “nothing happened, other than people in love got married”. The former HRC chairman spoke about South Africa, where gay marriage was made legal in 2006. He said the country knew plenty about racial discrimination and it had deemed racial and sexual orientation discrimination as “the same thing”. His comments drew murmurs of disapproval from several people sitting in the public gallery, with one person saying “nonsense!” and another adding: “I was born black.” Mr Attride-Stirling said: “In Bermuda, we tend to have a discriminatory view of homosexuals. Through time and education, we have evolved. Not everyone has evolved at the same pace.” He suggested MPs had “passed the buck” on the issue by leaving it for the courts to decide and acknowledged the judge had a difficult task ahead. He noted comments made by Donald Trump in the presidential election about appointing judges to reverse marriage equality in the United States. Mr Attride-Stirling noted a day earlier that three previous Supreme Court judgments concluded that government-only functions were “services” as defined by the Human Rights Act, He said an amendment to that Act passed by Parliament in 2016 “carved out” 28 exceptions, and the Registrar’s marriage licensing duties were not included in the exceptions, so clearly fell within its ambit. Ultimately, he said, the Bermuda courts would be invited to “take either the Trump view of same-sex marriage or the [Nelson] Mandela view”. He said the rights of children needed to be considered because while it was legal for children to be adopted by same-sex couples in Bermuda, those children were now “being prejudiced [against] because they don’t have the right to have two married parents and the rights that are associated with them”. The lawyer said if there was a case where one partner was Bermudian and the other foreign and the Bermudian died, the foreign partner could be made to leave the island. He referenced the controversy surrounding the Reverend Nicholas Tweed, who has a Bermudian daughter, but is separated from his Bermudian wife and has had a work-permit renewal refused, meaning he may have to leave the island. Mr Attride-Stirling said at least in Mr Tweed’s case, he could have chosen to stay married, adding: “Gay couples don’t have that ability.” The case continues tomorrow at 9.30am in Court Four of the Dame Lois Browne-Evans building.
2017. January 30. The lawyer for a gay couple fighting for the right to marry in Bermuda has urged the court to write the final chapter in the protection of gay rights. Mark Pettingill, acting on behalf of Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé, Greg DeRoche, told the Supreme Court that the Human Rights Act took primacy in Bermuda and protected his clients’ rights to marry. Mr Godwin and Mr DeRoche have brought a civil case against the Registrar-General for rejecting their application to marry. They are seeking an order from the Supreme Court to compel the Registrar to post their marriage bans, in accordance with the Marriage Act. They also want a declaration that same-sex couples are entitled to be married under that law. This morning, Mr Pettingill addressed Judge Charles-Etta Simmons before a packed courtroom of more than 60 people at the beginning of the case. He said the case encapsulates “the right to happiness, the right of all people to seek love and happiness”, adding: “The applicants say that religious arguments bear no relevance on civil contractual marriage. This is a matter of statutory interpretation.” In his opening address, Mr Pettingill also questioned why the Attorney-General and the Minister of Home Affairs were named as respondents in the case. “I don’t understand how the respondents are even here,” he said. “There are three respondents listed: one [the Registrar-General] has withdrawn his position, and the other two have supported the applicant’s position. I understand it’s politics and a lot of heads can get stuck in the sand but this is a court of law. These two respondents [the Attorney-General and Minister of Home Affairs] objected and voted against provisions that would override the primacy of the Human Rights Act. Why are we here?” Describing the referendum on same-sex marriage and civil unions as “folly” Mr Pettingill added: “It’s a minority rights issue. It is time for the courts fully armed with the legal protection of the Human Rights Act to write the final chapter in the protection of the rights of gay people of secular orientation and all the rights that everyone enjoys to be the same.” Mr Godwin, who was in court for today’s proceedings, wore a T-shirt saying “Some dudes marry dudes. Get over it.” Mr Pettingill insisted that the primacy of the Human Rights Act protected his clients’ right not to be discriminated against on the basis of their sex or sexual orientation. He said: “It is not just about Bermuda, it is about right thinking countries and people now at least embracing this concept, and in embracing this concept we cannot in Bermuda operate in a vacuum or create artificial arguments to obviate the position in human rights. The law is clear.” Preserve Marriage, which has campaigned to maintain marriage as between a man and a woman, has been allowed to join the case as an “intervener” in the proceedings. The group is represented by Delroy Duncan, and the defendant by the Attorney-General’s Chambers. The case, which is expected to last several days, is taking place in Court Four of the Dame Lois Browne-Evans building before Judge Charles-Etta Simmons. Those in attendance include the Progressive Labour Party MP Wayne Furbert, an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage, and Tony Brannon, who has been at the forefront of the campaign in favour.
2017. January 30. Wayne Furbert has said he will bring amendments solidifying marriage as between a man and a woman back to the House of Assembly as the debate over same-sex marriage prepares to return to the courts. Speaking last night at a prayer rally organised by Preserve Marriage on the eve of a court hearing on the subject of same-sex marriage, the Progressive Labour Party MP said he would continue to push the amendments forward. “I don’t know what the courts will do, but I will bring it back in June,” he said to applause. Urging the hundreds at the rally to speak to their representatives in the House about their views, he said: “Don’t give up the fight. Don’t think this is over. The battle is not over.” Mr Furbert originally tabled amendments to the Human Rights Act to limit marriage as between a man and a woman last year. The amendments were approved by the House of Assembly, but later rejected by the Senate by a vote of six to five. The comments came less than 24 hours before Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé, Greg DeRoche, are set to appear before the courts to fight for same-sex marriage. The couple have brought a civil case against the Registrar-General for rejecting their application to marry, claiming the refusal breaches the Human Rights Act. They are seeking an order from the Supreme court to compel the Registrar to post their marriage bans, in accordance with the Marriage Act. They also want a declaration that same-sex couples are entitled to be married under that law. Preserve Marriage, which has campaigned to maintain marriage as between a man and a woman, has been allowed to join the case as an “intervener” in the proceedings. Mr Godwin and Mr DeRoche are represented by Mark Pettingill, with the Attorney-General’s Chambers for the defendant. Speaking last night, Mr Pettingill said that the case was expected to last several days in court as both sides present their arguments, stating the courts might not make a final decision this week. “We are saying that as the law stands it’s lawful for same sex couples to seek a marriage licence,” he said. “We have a very strong, arguable case on the face of the law.” While a ruling in the favour of his clients would open the door for other same-sex couples to apply for marriage licences, he said he would potentially seek an appeal if the decision goes against his clients.
2016. October 25. A judge has ruled that Preserve Marriage will be able to play a part in an upcoming judicial review case about same-sex marriage. Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons said that the charity, which opposes same-sex marriage on religious grounds, could join the Human Rights Commission as an “intervener” in the proceedings that will begin in December. Mrs Justice Simmons said the group had a “legitimate interest” in the matter, but added that the court maintained the jurisdiction to control its proceedings and stop “unnecessary and irrelevant” points being made. The proceedings have been brought by gay couple Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche against the Registrar-General for refusing to marry them on the grounds of their sexual orientation. The pair claim the Registrar’s refusal breaches the Human Rights Act and they are seeking an order from the Supreme Court to compel him to post their marriage banns, in accordance with the Marriage Act. They also want a declaration that same-sex couples are entitled to be married under that law. Yesterday morning Delroy Duncan, representing Preserve Marriage, said he had been instructed not to apply for costs despite the fact the group had won its application to take part in the proceedings. Last week Mr Duncan told the court: “Let’s make this what it is; it’s a national debate where interested parties with a real and legitimate interest in the outcome should be permitted to have their say.” Mark Pettingill, representing Mr Godwin and Mr DeRoche, dismissed the argument put forward by Preserve Marriage’s lawyer, saying: “We are dealing with a narrow issue; a contracted marriage before a registrar. They [Preserve Marriage] are not a proper party to assist the court in the legal issue it must determine.” Mr Pettingill also made an application for the charity to provide “security of costs” for the proceedings if it was allowed to be involved. He claimed Preserve Marriage’s legal fees were being funded by “third parties” and said the identities of those third parties should be revealed. But yesterday in court Mrs Justice Simmons said that there was no provision in law for the security of costs order to be made against an intervener. The substantive Judicial Review hearing has been set down to take place on December 8, 9 and 12.
2016. October 19. Opponents of same-sex marriage have been “blacklisted” by businesses and fear repercussions from the LGBT community for their views, a court heard yesterday. Delroy Duncan, lawyer for Preserve Marriage, made the claim in the Supreme Court, as he argued that the charity should not have to put up the costs for civil proceedings which it wishes to join as an interested party, nor reveal the identity of its donors. The proceedings were brought by gay couple Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche against the Registrar-General for refusing to marry them on the grounds of their sexual orientation. The pair claim the Registrar’s refusal breaches the Human Rights Act and they are seeking an order from the Supreme Court to compel him to post their marriage banns, in accordance with the Marriage Act. They also want a declaration that same-sex couples are entitled to be married under that law. The two men’s Judicial Review application is set to begin next Monday and yesterday’s hearing considered whether Preserve Marriage, which opposes same-sex marriage and civil unions on religious grounds, should be allowed to take part in the proceedings. At the end of the hearing, Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons reserved judgment on Preserve Marriage’s application, saying she expected to make a ruling later in the week and that the trial could possibly still go ahead on Monday. Mr Duncan told the court: “Let’s make this what it is; it’s a national debate where interested parties with a real and legitimate interest in the outcome should be permitted to have their say.” But Mark Pettingill, representing Mr Godwin and Mr DeRoche, dismissed the argument put forward by Preserve Marriage’s lawyer, saying: “We are dealing with a narrow issue; a contracted marriage before a registrar. They [Preserve Marriage] are not a proper party to assist the court in the legal issue it must determine.” Mr Pettingill also made an application for the charity to provide “security of costs” for the proceedings if it was allowed to be involved. He claimed Preserve Marriage’s legal fees were being funded by “third parties” and said the identities of those third parties should be revealed. But Mr Duncan said: “Members of Preserve Marriage who have publicly come out opposing same-sex marriage and civil unions have been blacklisted by businesses.” Mr Duncan added that disclosing the identity of donors would “invade the privacy of members of this community who support Preserve Marriage” and who feared “repercussions” from the LGBT community. He referred to a letter he had received from Preserve Marriage member Laura Dowling, a chiropractor, who told him members of the charity’s action team had been blacklisted and denied access to certain venues. “Her practice has been affected as well,” he said. “This is real. This is what’s going on in this case. The public square in Bermuda should be for everybody to have a say in matters that affect or potentially affect their interests.” Former Attorney-General Mr Pettingill argued that Preserve Marriage’s involvement would significantly extend the proceedings and that wasn’t fair on his clients. He said the charity had filed “voluminous” submissions which were not relevant to the “narrow issue” at hand and which he did not plan to read. “This is not a public debate,” the One Bermuda Alliance backbencher said. “This is not Speakers’ Corner. This is not a religious debate.” He suggested those represented by Mr Duncan were “bigots”, a phrase Preserve Marriage’s lawyer described as “very unfortunate”. Mr Pettingill said: “All that word means is they are opposed to a position somebody else has.” But Mrs Justice Simmons, who was hearing the arguments, said: “I think it’s a far more loaded word than that.” The Human Rights Commission is an intervener in the case and its lawyer, Rod Attride-Stirling, complained that Preserve Marriage had submitted evidence late on Monday and early yesterday, instead of giving counsel at least two days to consider it. “It’s impossible for us to state a considered position in relation to the application because we have not had a proper opportunity to consider the evidence,” Mr Attride-Stirling said. “[The submission] makes scandalous and false statements that my clients want to respond to correct the record. That evidence, quite frankly, should be struck out.” He described some of the material as “outrageous”, adding that some statements were false and others were “heavily disingenuous. It’s totally inappropriate that this sort of evidence should be used during this hearing. We have had no opportunity to respond.” Mr Duncan denied the evidence contained false statements. He said two countries which had settled the matter of same-sex marriage through the courts — the United States and South Africa — had allowed submissions from groups such as Preserve Marriage. And he said Mr Pettingill was “on public record” — in The Royal Gazette — as providing his services free of charge to Mr Godwin and Mr DeRoche, so the cost of the proceedings would not impact them. Mr Pettingill said he was not on the court record as providing his services pro bono and it was not the case. Mr Godwin’s and Mr DeRoche’s writ against the Registrar was filed days after a referendum on same-sex marriage and civil unions. The ballot was deemed unanswered because of low voter turnout. The Government has said it will defend the legal case on the grounds that a marriage service is not a service covered by the Human Rights Act. In his refusal letter to the couple, the Registrar cited the Matrimonial Causes Act, section 15 of which says a marriage is void if the parties are not male and female.
2016. September 16. Government lawyers will argue in court that the Registrar-General was right to refuse to marry a gay couple because marriage is not a “service” as defined in the Human Rights Act. Acting Solicitor-General Norman MacDonald told a Supreme Court hearing yesterday that the Bermuda Government would contest a legal bid by Bermudian Winston Godwin and his fiancé Greg DeRoche to have the Registrar’s decision overturned. The couple, represented by former Attorney-General Mark Pettingill, claim the Registrar breached the Human Rights Act by refusing to process their marriage application in July. The Act outlaws denying “goods, facilities or services” based on a person’s sexual orientation and Mr Pettingill, in his application to the court, said the Registrar had failed in his duties as the Registrar of Marriages. But Mr MacDonald told Chief Justice Ian Kawaley: “It’s the Crown’s position that the marriage service is not a service that is covered by the Human Rights Act.” Mr Pettingill had earlier told the court a full hearing on the issue should be held as soon as possible. “This is a human rights matter and I respectfully submit that it’s gone on too long and one day [more] on a human rights issue is too long, where there’s a certain segment of society which is not being allowed its fundamental human rights,” said the lawyer and government backbencher. “That’s something that must be addressed in earnest. It is clear as a pikestaff that services must be allowed for all people." All of this is . . . not convoluted. I would urge upon the court that we are ready to go today. I’d be more than happy; let’s argue it today.” Mr Godwin and Mr DeRoche are seeking an order of mandamus from the Supreme Court which would compel the Registrar to act in accordance with the Marriage Act and post their marriage banns. They also want a declaration that same-sex couples are entitled to be married under that law. Mr Pettingill likened their application for judicial review to an urgent writ of habeas corpus, seeking to have a person released from custody. “I put it in the same bracket,” he told the court, adding: “This issue should be clarified and heard in short order.” Mr MacDonald asked for 21 days to file a reply affidavit and for any court hearing to happen in November or December. He said: “The issue is not clear as a pikestaff, as he says.” Mr Justice Kawaley said he would give the Attorney-General’s Chambers 14 days to file its affidavit, adding that the full hearing should take place in October on a date to be set. Mr Godwin and Mr DeRoche, who are being represented pro bono by Mr Pettingill, filed their civil suit just days after the June 23 referendum on same-sex relationships, when the turnout was less than 50 per cent and the questions were deemed unanswered. Of those who voted, 69 per cent were against same-sex marriage and 63 per cent were against same-sex civil unions. If the couple’s case is heard next month, a decision from the court could come before MPs return to Parliament on November 4.
2016. September 1. The number of venues that civil marriage ceremonies can be conducted has been expanded by the Registry General with the passing of the Marriage Amendment Act 2016. Under the Marriage Act 1944, civil marriage ceremonies were only permitted to be conducted in the Registrar’s office. The Ministry of Home Affairs has advised that marriages contracted before the Registrar General can now be held at alternate approved locations which include: Admiralty House Park, Arboretum, Astwood Park, Blue Hole Hill Park, Botanical Gardens, Chaplin Bay, Church Bay, Clocktower Mall Dockyard, Devonshire Bay Park, Elbow Beach (the public beach as accessed from Tribe Road 4B Paget), Ferry Point Park, Fort St. Catherine beach, Great Head Park, Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Park, Horseshoe Bay, John Smith’s Bay, Jobson’s Cove, Scaur Hill Fort Park, Shelly Bay beach, Somerset Long Bay, Spanish Point Park, Stonehole Bay, St. David’s Lighthouse Park, Tobacco Bay, Victualling Yard in Dockyard, and Warwick Long Bay. Parties wishing to contract marriage in the presence of the Registrar for these venues must submit the fee of $450 to the Registry General, at least 14 days prior to the proposed date of marriage. The fee is in addition to $368 fee which is required to be submitted with the Notice of Intended Marriage Application form. A Ministry of Home Affairs spokeswoman said: “The onus is on the parties to be wed to obtain written permission from the owner or occupier of the venue (eg Wedco or Ministry of Public Works) and notify the Registrar accordingly of the date. The time will be confirmed by Registry General staff. In addition parties are responsible for arranging the logistics of set-up and any other features related to the wedding. The Registry General Office will only be responsible for providing a table, chair and relevant documents for signature. In the event of inclement weather, prohibiting an outdoor wedding, the alternate venue for the marriage will be the Registry General.” In such cases, the marriage ceremony fee will be reduced to $245 which is the fee applicable to marriages conducted within the Registry General. For more information on fees associated with civil marriage ceremonies visit https://www.gov.bm/content/apply-marriage-licence).
2016. August 31. A gay Bermudian and his fiancé have been granted leave to argue in the Supreme Court that they should be allowed to wed on the island. Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche, who live in Toronto, had their application to marry rejected by the Registrar-General last month and their lawyer Mark Pettingill sought leave to apply for a judicial review of the decision. Mr Pettingill told The Royal Gazette yesterday: “We are pleased but not surprised that the court has granted leave and look forward to the full hearing of this important human rights issue. I think the entire gay community and all right-thinking people generally will be supportive of it and want to see it pursued.” The Government backbencher, who is providing his services pro bono to the couple, said the couple’s application would be an important test case for the island and he was now preparing his case for when the hearing takes place. The former Attorney-General filed a writ on behalf of the couple with the Supreme Court in July, backed up by affidavits from Mr Godwin and Mr De Roche. The action seeks to have a judge overturn the refusal of the Registrar-General to process the marriage application, in accordance with the Marriage Act 1944, and issue an order requiring him to do so. The couple claim the Registrar has failed in his duties and should be made to act in accordance with the Marriage Act, on the grounds that it is discriminatory under the Human Rights Act for him to refuse to process the application based on their sexual orientation. In his refusal letter, the Registrar cited the Matrimonial Causes Act, section 15 of which says a marriage is void if the parties are not male and female.
2016. July 14. Chief Justice Ian Kawaley has released a full judgment explaining why he didn’t stop the referendum on same-sex relationships from going ahead despite it being held in a “somewhat shabby and shambolic fashion”. The 44-page verdict expands on Mr Justice Kawaley’s reasons for rejecting a legal bid by the Centre for Justice to stop the June 23 referendum or postpone it to a later date. He wrote that the referendum could be held without offending the Constitution or the Human Rights Act and though it would “likely interfere with some freedom of expression and freedom of association rights” it was not to the extent that merited stopping it from happening altogether. “In the context of deciding whether the referendum . . . should or should not be restrained, the rule of law, in fact, required the court to respect the fact that political judgments are for politicians, not judges, to make. There is room for judicial activism when entertaining applications to enforce statutory human rights. There is a need for judicial restraint when courts are invited to thwart the lawfully articulated will of Parliament.” He added it would be inconsistent with established principles governing the relationship between the judiciary and the legislature for the “judiciary to trespass on the proper domain of the executive and judicial branches of government”; to do so, he said, would be unconstitutional. Elsewhere in the judgment, the Chief Justice said the application for judicial review by the Centre of Justice “raised complicated issues of considerable public importance which were argued and decided within a necessarily compressed timeframe”. The referendum asked voters if they were in favour of same-sex marriage and if they were in favour of same-sex civil unions. The turnout for the non-binding ballot was 46.89 per cent and, of those who voted, 69 per cent were against same-sex marriage and 63 per cent were against civil unions. Mr Justice Kawaley described the referendum as being “organised in a somewhat shabby and shambolic fashion with little or no apparent regard for good referendum practice” and suggested the Premier should have set up a committee to oversee how it was run. But in relation to the Centre’s claim that it was “repugnant to certain fundamental rights of individuals at common law,” he concluded there was no reason for the courts to intervene to stop it. “Bermuda’s Parliament is competent to override common law rights by clearly drafted legislation, subject to three important caveats,” he wrote. The caveats, he said, were that Parliament’s law making powers were subject to the Constitution, could not be exercised in a way which conflicted with any UK laws which extend to Bermuda and “cannot effectively be exercised in a way with conflicts with the Human Rights Act 1981, unless Parliament expressly provides that the relevant law is not subject to the primacy provisions of the 1981 Act”. He said it was open to any interested party to challenge the referendum results. The judgment refers to an earlier observation made by the Chief Justice that “Bermuda appears to be under a positive international law duty under article of the ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights) to create some coherent legal framework for the recognition of same-sex relationships formed by Bermudians”. Mr Justice Kawaley said those observations formed no part of his decision in the Bermuda Bred Company case, in which he ordered that same-sex partners of Bermudians be given the same immigration and employment rights as heterosexual spouses, and which was “solely concerned with the Bermuda domestic law position”.
2016. July 13. Finance minister and Deputy Premier Bob Richards believes gay couples should have all the same legal rights as heterosexual spouses — but they should not be granted the right to marry. Mr Richards is one of several One Bermuda Alliance politicians to give his opinion on same-sex marriage following a successful vote to amend the Human Rights Act to solidify marriage as being between a man and a woman. National security minister Senator Jeffrey Baron, MP Suzann Roberts Holshouser and MP Mark Pettingill all gave varying views on the outcome of the vote and the issue of same-sex marriage in Bermuda. Mr Richards voted for the amendment, brought by Progressive Labour Party MP Wayne Furbert, to go ahead but he has been a vocal supporter of civil unions in the past. He acknowledged that civil unions do not grant equal rights but said that was something that could be ironed out on in the future. Mr Richards told The Royal Gazette: “Marriage is intrinsically, in its very nature, between a man and a woman and I don’t think it can be reformed into something it is not. This is not a religious standpoint — a lot of people have an opinion as it relates to religion. I am a Christian, I go to church. You look in the bible and it is replete with examples of people being married who aren’t Christian. Look at the world we have today there are not just Christians . . . every religion, every culture has marriage between a man and a woman. Marriage is a construct by the human species to do two things — to obey the dictates of nature, to procreate, and to socialize children. That is what marriage is about when you step back and look at it in totality.” Mr Richards added that except for the right to be granted marital status, same-sex couples should have no fewer rights. “I think that gay couples should have all of the rights and privileges provided under law for married couples. I don’t want to deny them those legal structures. Civil union does get us there to a certain extent but those things can be fixed. We haven’t even got to civil unions yet so let’s not run before we can walk. I am disappointed it didn’t get to civil unions. I have always been of the opinion that gay people should have their civil rights. We live in a pluralistic society and we have to take account for people that are different from us and I think that is key. It is who we are as humans and I believe I am maybe the only person in my party with this point of view.” The amendment is yet to be approved by the Senate and will then have to be signed off by the Governor. OBA senator and Minister of National Senator Baron has already said that he intends to vote against the amendments in the Senate on Thursday, saying: “I respect the fact there are strong opinions on this issue. In my view, human rights are indivisible and this is an issue of human rights. Every single Bermudian and persons who call Bermuda home — gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgender — every one of them deserves to be treated equally in the eyes of our laws and in the eyes of our diverse society. It is, for me, really that simple. I support same sex marriage and as I have previously stated, will vote against the bill passed in the House when it comes before the Senate”. Ms Roberts-Holshouser could not vote in the House on Friday night as she was Acting Speaker, but told this newspaper she would not have supported the amendment. “I certainly would have voted against the bill,” she said. “I do not understand how individuals are able to be selective in what one would discriminate against. You can’t be selective and it is very sad. I certainly would have voted against the bill to change the Human Rights Act, absolutely. One of the things that is necessary to understand is that it was a conscience vote and as a result you have to respect one another. The one thing that is beneficial about the One Bermuda Alliance is the ability to recognise and accept the fact that people think differently and we have a right to think differently and have a responsibility to not follow like sheep. We are a group of individuals who are different and diversified.” Mr Pettingill has been an active supporter of same-sex marriage and believes that, regardless of whether the amendment is ultimately approved, there could be a constitutional argument to overrule the decision. He said: “The bill has constitutional issues that clearly prevent it from being valid. The Senate, in properly performing its function, should address that.”
2016. July 13. A young Bermudian told yesterday how he and his fiancé wanted to help “make a difference” by becoming the first gay couple to argue in court for the right to marry here. Winston Godwin, 26, who grew up in Sandys and now lives in Toronto, told The Royal Gazette: “This is something that can impact and affect so many people in a positive way. I would love to be able to come back to Bermuda and work and contribute to a place that has given me so much. Unfortunately, as it stands, it’s one of those things that’s just not possible at the moment. I would just like to have our marriage recognized as just as equal as anybody else’s.” Mr Godwin got engaged last month after his boyfriend, Greg DeRoche, 29, proposed to him on a visit to the island. The couple, who have been together for a year and a half, were enjoying a romantic walk along the beach at Cooper’s Island, skipping rocks across the waves, when Mr DeRoche popped the question. “We had talked about it a little beforehand and joked about it. I said, ‘Are you being serious? If you are being serious, then, yes, absolutely!’ I couldn’t imagine spending my life with anyone else.” Soon after their engagement, Mr Godwin saw an appeal on social media from campaigner Tony Brannon for a gay couple to come forward to test the law of the land in relation to same-sex marriage. Mr Godwin said: “We had never really considered Bermuda because of it not being legally recognized but we said, ‘Why not? It would be kind of cool to do’. It’s something that’s bigger than both of us. We could easily have gotten married in Canada, no problem, no questions asked, but we figured if there was something we could help to do to make a difference, why not try to fight for that?” Lawyer and former Attorney-General Mark Pettingill is now representing the couple, pro bono, and he filed notice of their intended marriage with the Registrar-General last week. The application was rejected and Mr Pettingill has since filed a writ with the Supreme Court seeking a declaratory judgment on whether the Registrar’s refusal to provide the couple with the service of marriage on the basis of their sexual orientation breached the Human Rights Act. Mr Godwin said he and Mr DeRoche were preparing affidavits to support their case and were willing to come to the island to testify in court if necessary. In the meantime, he had a message for those who say they don’t believe in same-sex marriage. “It’s not something for you to believe in. I’m not Santa Claus or the Easter bunny. This is me. I’m a real person, a human being, expressing human feelings. “I’m a person, just like you and how can you tell me I’m less than you because of who I love? I don’t say ‘who I choose to love’ because it’s not a choice. My being gay: I have as much choice in that as I do being black. It’s like being left-handed or right-handed; being a woman versus a man.” Mr Godwin, an aquarist who works at Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada and the recipient of several local scholarships and awards, said he was an example of a young Bermudian who was part of the “brain drain” from the island, pursuing a career elsewhere after having “so much invested into them” here. “Bermuda still feels like home,” said the former Saltus Grammar School student. “I would eventually love to come back and give back to an island that has given me so many opportunities. I’m never ever ruling Bermuda out of the question. But, as it stands right now, I can’t do that and be happy.” He compared life in Toronto, where he and Mr DeRoche can walk unnoticed hand-in-hand down the street, with being in Bermuda and “not being able to be completely ... yourself because society tells you that you are less than them”. Mr Godwin went to boarding school and university in Canada and said it was always possible for him to “escape” from the island. But he added: “A lot of Bermudians that might be in a similar position, struggling to come to grips with themselves, they don’t really have that escape. It’s tough living in that sort of climate 24/7.” That knowledge, he said, spurred him and his fiancé on to get involved with Mr Pettingill’s legal challenge. Describing his involvement in what could be an historic case, he admitted: “It’s nerve-racking, for sure. It’s something that ruffles a lot of feathers. It’s something that people aren’t used to. It’s something that’s out of the norm. It shouldn’t be, because it’s just an equal rights thing.”
2016. July 9. Amendments aimed at solidifying marriage as between a man and a woman were passed in the House of Assembly last night, despite vocal opposition. And in the wake of the vote, One Bermuda Alliance backbencher Mark Pettingill said he is ashamed of his party. “How it will affect my position [in the One Bermuda Alliance] over the summer, I don’t know,” he said. The amendments, tabled by Wayne Furbert and further amended by Trevor Moniz, the Attorney-General, state that nothing in the Human Rights Act would override the provisions of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1974, which provides that marriages are void unless they are between a man and a woman. A total of 20 MPs voted in favour of the amended Bill with ten, including Mr Moniz, voting against it. Michael Dunkley, the Premier, abstained from voting, telling the House that he had asked Mr Furbert to set back the Bill for a week so he could discuss the matter with the Human Rights Commission. Marc Bean and Zane DeSilva were not present, while Deputy Speaker Suzann Roberts Holshouser was unable to vote because she was serving as Speaker at the time. The vote came after almost two hours of debate in which parliamentarians spoke out strongly on both sides of the issue. Mr Pettingill, the Progressive Labour Party’s Walton Brown and independent MP Shawn Crockwell voiced vociferous opposition to the legislation, which they argued was a retrograde step for human rights on the island. Opening his speech by reading the opening paragraph of the Human Rights Act, Mr Pettingill said that everyone on the island deserved the same rights, regardless of sexual orientation. “It’s a human rights issue because of what our Human Rights Act says,” he said. “That every human being is entitled to the same service as any human being.” Mr Crockwell, meanwhile, said that the amendments being debated were in themselves discriminatory. “We are in breach of the Human Rights Act if we pass this,” he said. “We will look regressive, we will look unfriendly and we will look intolerant.” And Mr Brown said that human rights should not be trampled by the will of the majority, calling the legislation offensive. “If we don’t do it, the courts will do it anyway,” he said. “How embarrassing would that be? Our responsibility is to lead. We cannot allow the courts to do it because we don’t have the conviction.” They were joined by several other OBA members, including Grant Gibbons, Glenn Smith and Patricia Gordon Pamplin, who spoke out against the amendments. However, Mr Furbert was joined by Craig Cannonier, Sylvan Richards and Wayne Scott, who said the matter was not one of human rights. Mr Furbert told the House that while the recent referendum may not have been officially answered, it clearly showed the direction the public want to go in. Noting the Premier’s insistence on speaking with the Human Rights Commission before casting a vote, he said: “I heard the people say loud and clear where they want to stand. I’m not listening to three people when 10,000 people already said no.” He further stated that same-sex marriage is not a human rights issue, saying the majority of legislation states under the European Convention of Human Rights had established marriage as between a man and a woman. Stating his opposition to same-sex marriage, Mr Cannonier also cited the referendum. “When the people speak, we must listen to bring good legislation to the table,” he said. And Mr Scott said that when he brought forward amendments to the Human Rights Act to prevent discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, the intent was not to allow same-sex marriage. Mr Pettingill, who as a lawyer represents a gay couple seeking to marry on the island, said the vote would not deter him from pursuing the matter through the courts. However he told The Royal Gazette he was ashamed to see members of his own party vote against the matter. “I generally knew the PLP would vote that way,” he said. “Walton Brown and Michael Scott were courageous. You have got to expect nothing less; they are intellectuals. I’m galled and completely ashamed of members on my side of the House. They didn’t have the sensibility to stand up on this issue. A lot of that was driven by the fact that they are just looking at the political position on votes and that’s equally disgusting. I’m reflecting on this. I feel very bruised right now and saddened and, frankly, astounded that I’m associated with so many narrow-minded people; people I consider to be my friends. It’s astounding to discover that people can be that narrow-minded. This hurts me, I feel very hurt that this is what our Parliament has chosen to do. I don’t necessarily believe that the Governor will assent to this nonsense, given the UK’s position on this. It’s not law yet. This doesn’t impact on the position on the matter still going to court [Godwin and DeRoche marriage application].” How they voted over issue:
• Speaker Randy Horton was absent, meaning Suzann Roberts Holshouser (OBA) was Acting Speaker and did not vote. Susan Jackson (OBA) was Committee Chair and did not vote.
2016. July 8. An application by a gay couple to get married in Bermuda has been rejected by the Government. Bermudian Winston Godwin, 26, and his fiancé Greg DeRoche, 29, who live in Toronto, filed notice of their intended marriage with Registrar-General Aubrey Pennyman on Monday. The application was accompanied by a letter from the couple’s lawyer Mark Pettingill, which asked Mr Pennyman to make clear his “intentions” within two days as to whether he would post notice of their marriage. The Royal Gazette understands that Mr Pennyman has written back to Mr Pettingill, telling him he is not prepared to post the marriage banns, in accordance with the Marriage Act. The Registrar’s letter is believed to cite the Matrimonial Causes Act, section 15 of which says a marriage is void if the parties are not male and female. The matter is now likely to go before the Supreme Court, with Mr Pettingill expected to seek a declaratory judgment to determine exactly what the position is in law. He will also probably apply for a court order which, if issued, would require Mr Pennyman to perform his statutory duties and allow the men to marry. Government backbencher Mr Pettingill, a former Attorney-General, has previously said that since the Human Rights Act bans discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and has primacy over all other laws, gay couples cannot be denied the service of marriage. Mr Pennyman’s letter, it is understood, made no reference to the Human Rights Act. Last month, a referendum was held on same-sex relationships with a voter turnout of 46.89 per cent. Of those who voted, 69 per cent were against same-sex marriage and 63 per cent were against same-sex civil unions. Michael Dunkley, the Premier, said the day before the ballot: “Any outcome is the will of the people and will guide their elected officials accordingly. As we have said in the town hall meeting[s], if there is a ‘no’ vote it will potentially open up challenges in the courts and the courts will ultimately decide.” Human Rights Commission representatives are due to meet with Mr Dunkley early next week to discuss how Bermuda will recognise same-sex relationships. Chairwoman Tawana Tannock told this newspaper the meeting would focus on “next steps”, adding: “Legislation is one of the things that we will be discussing.” “We have some suggestions,” she said. “Right now, we are trying to ascertain what the Government’s timeline is for ensuring that same-sex couples have legal recognition.” She said the HRC had, before and after the referendum, carried out its mandate to educate and raise awareness about equality issues. “Regardless of the referendum, we always have a mandate to ensure that rights are protected. Our main goal always remains advancement for all rights issues. The result doesn’t change government’s legal obligation. Something needs to be implemented to reflect government’s legal obligation.” It wasn’t possible to reach Mr Pennyman, Mr Pettingill or the couple for comment before going to press last night.
2016. June 29. Two same-sex couples are expected to apply to wed in Bermuda in the coming days and are likely to appeal directly to the courts if they are not given permission to marry. The couples — one female and one male — will be represented by former Attorney-General Mark Pettingill, the lawyer and MP who has vowed not to rest after last week’s referendum result until there are equal human rights for all. The marriage applications and the likely court proceedings that could follow may settle the same-sex marriage issue without legislators getting involved, as many have predicted. The referendum on June 23 failed to officially answer whether Bermudian voters were for or against same-sex marriage or civil unions, as the turnout was less than 50 per cent. Mr Pettingill told The Royal Gazette he could not comment on the “anticipated” marriage applications but said: “I have always believed that marriage is a legal issue and not a religious issue. I believe that in light of that, it’s a matter that will be best addressed by the courts. “Consequently, I take the view that the Human Rights Act has primacy and that the Registrar[-General] must provide services in accordance with the Marriage Act.” The Marriage Act requires the Registrar-General to post notice of any intended marriage in the Registry-General for two weeks and to advertise the nuptials in a newspaper within three days of receiving notice of it. Mr Pettingill previously represented a different couple, Bermudian Ijumo Hayward and his American partner, Clarence Williams III, when they applied to wed here in December. The One Bermuda Alliance backbencher sent a covering letter with their application to Registrar-General Aubrey Pennyman, which said if their intended marriage was not advertised in accordance with the law, the couple would seek a Supreme Court order to force him to perform his statutory duty. Mr Pennyman did not issue the required notices and Mr Pettingill was told that the Registrar was taking advice from the Attorney-General’s chambers. Mr Hayward and Mr Williams are already married in the United States and it is understood that their application is unlikely to proceed any farther. The two new couples to be represented by Mr Pettingill are not married and are likely to argue, if their cases come to court, that the Registrar-General is in breach of the Human Rights Act for denying them “goods, facilities or services” based on their sexual orientation. But the timing of any court proceedings relating to their applications could be critical since the Bermuda Government has already tabled legislation — an amendment to the Matrimonial Causes Act — which would allow discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in relation to weddings. The proposed amendment, which is on the order paper of the House of Assembly, would remove the supremacy of the Human Rights Act in relation to section 15 of the Matrimonial Causes Act, which says a marriage is void if the parties are not male and female. Michael Dunkley would not comment yesterday on whether the Government would proceed with that piece of legislation, or with the draft Civil Union Act 2016, which was tabled for consultation purposes in February. The Premier told this newspaper: “I and my parliamentary colleagues continue to deliberate on [the] matter.” The turnout for the referendum was 46.89 per cent, meaning the two questions on the ballot paper were deemed to be unanswered. Of those who voted, 69 per cent were against same-sex marriage and 63 per cent were against same-sex civil unions. Mr Dunkley said last week of the referendum: “Any outcome is the will of the people and will guide their elected officials accordingly. As we have said in the town hall meeting[s], if there is a ‘no’ vote, it will potentially open up challenges in the courts and the courts will ultimately decide.” Mr Pettingill, meanwhile, told Parliament on Friday: “I won’t rest until this issue is addressed.”
2016. June 17. Regardless of how the public vote in the referendum next week on whether or not to allow same-sex marriages, the Bermuda Government will be obliged to find some form of legal foundation to accommodate same-sex couples who are in permanent relationships. Trevor Moniz, Attorney-General, said last night that the One Bermuda Alliance had tabled its consultation Bill on civil unions because it was felt that the majority of Bermudians would favour the partnerships over outright same-sex marriage. “We were trying to show the courts we were doing our level best to meet the requirements of the law as enunciated by the Chief Justice in the Bermuda Bred case,” Mr Moniz told a gathering at the Bermuda College, where home affairs minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin was presenting information on the June 23 referendum. That ruling by Chief Justice Ian Kawaley found that non-Bermudian same-sex partners of Bermudians who are in permanent relationships are entitled to live and work in Bermuda free of immigration control. Asked if this meant that civil unions were unavoidable, Mr Moniz said: “It’s not inevitable. There must be some sort of legal framework for same-sex couples in same-sex relationships. If we don’t provide a framework, then the courts will step in. In each case as they come up, if same-sex couples are treated differently from heterosexual couples, then the courts will strike them down as discriminatory. It might be inheritance or owning land, or any one of hundreds of different ways.” If the Bermudian public vote no on both same-sex marriage and civil unions, the Attorney-General and the Cabinet would face a quandary, given amendments two years ago to the Human Rights Act, which outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation. “Do we want to go backwards by trying to undo the amendment to the Human Rights Act, or be in breach of the European Convention? Is there some other form of legal framework that might be acceptable if civil union is not acceptable? We will have a difficult decision to make.” If the Government failed to settle on some arrangement for same-sex couples, Mr Moniz said the court challenges that would follow would amount to “a death by a thousand cuts”.
2016. June 17. The campaign against same-sex marriage has an eight-point lead over the campaign in favour, according to a poll commissioned by Bermuda's newspapwe The Royal Gazette. However, those in favour of same-sex civil unions outnumber those against by 13 percentage points, in the survey carried out by Global Research between June 6 and 13. Pollsters asked 402 registered voters the same two questions they will face at the referendum on Thursday next week. Responding to the first question, “Are you in favour of same-sex marriage in Bermuda?” 41 per cent said yes, 49 per cent said no and 10 per cent did not know. Responding to the second question, “Are you in favour of same-sex civil unions in Bermuda?”, 52 per cent said yes, 39 per cent no and 9 per cent did not know. The margin of error for the poll is +/- 5 per cent. The same-sex marriage question has produced close results in all surveys commissioned by this newspaper over the past year. Three months ago, 45 per cent of people said they were in favour, with 48 per cent against. Last October, 48 per cent were in favour, with 44 per cent against. A breakdown of the new results shows most support for same-sex marriage comes from whites and younger people. Among whites, 71 per cent were in favour and 19 per cent against; among blacks, 25 per cent were in favour and 66 per cent against. Among people aged between 18 and 34, 50 per cent were in favour and 44 per cent against; among people aged over 65, 27 per cent were in favour and 63 per cent against. Among men, 42 per cent were in favour and 47 per cent against; among women, 41 per cent were in favour and 51 per cent against. Regarding same-sex civil unions, the white population was overwhelmingly in favour, with 82 per cent agreeing and 12 per cent opposing. Among blacks, 35 per cent were in favour, with 53 per cent against. Our poll also canvassed people’s opinions on whether or not a referendum on same-sex should even take place; the Centre for Justice has argued it breaches the constitution, the Human Rights Act and common law. More people were in opposition to the idea of a referendum, with 43 per cent supporting it, 45 per cent against it and 12 per cent unsure. In the previous poll in March, 58 per cent agreed with a referendum, 34 per cent disagreed and 8 per cent did not know.
In the meantime, visiting male-female couples who intend to get married in Bermuda but not work here must have sufficient funds and a bona fide host or place to stay. Couples living in or visiting Bermuda who are not legally married don't acquire any legal rights through cohabitation with an opposite-sex or same-sex partner, as they may have abroad. (Partners who are not married do not have any partnership rights in Bermuda).
Bermuda marriages for residents and non-residents are under the Bermuda Marriage Act 1944 or, 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.
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, explained Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the Minister of Home Affairs. Ms Gordon-Pamplin conceded that regulations to discern appropriate wedding locations had not been set in stone as yet. 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.
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.
A happy Bride and Bridegroom after a Bermuda wedding, photo Bermuda Tourism
A Bermuda Moongate wedding is a unique piece of Bermudiana
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 or, if a local, a wedding before a minister in church complete with all the frills.
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.
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.
The Registry General of the Bermuda Government handles all genuine requests for birth, marriage and death certificates and any replacements needed of them. The address is Government Administration Building, 30 Parliament Street, Hamilton HM 12, Bermuda. Telephone (441) 297-7707 (or 7709). Contact it directly - not via this website - for any questions and the fees payable in Bermuda or United States dollars.
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).
For more information on fees associated with civil marriage ceremonies visit https://www.gov.bm/content/apply-marriage-licence).
Names and residential addresses of both applicants must always be shown in full. 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 (either of) you have been married before, you must include official copies of final divorce decrees for each marriage of each person. They must be from the relevant office of a particular state, province or county and country.
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.
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.
Airmail to Bermuda often takes from 8-12 days from Canada, United Kingdom and USA. Minors (in Bermuda, 16 to not yet 21 years old, not just 18 as in the USA) 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.
Wedding couple in St. George's, Bermuda, outside old ruined churchCivil ceremonies may be performed in the Registry General's Marriage Room, at a cost shown above. Call 441 297 7709 or 441 297 7707 or Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
In Bermuda, unlike in the USA, Justices of the Peace do not have authority to perform weddings, so they are not licensed to do so unless they are also a local minister or priest of a recognized church and are licensed in Bermuda to perform weddings.
No aircraft in Bermuda or any accommodation properties are allowed under any Bermuda laws to marry you in Bermuda. However, a captain of a Bermuda-registered cruise ship may do so with the appropriate necessary procedure and approval.
Persons licensed by the Bermuda Government to conduct marriages are ministers of a particular religion with the sole exception of the Registrar of Marriages. Under the provisions of the Marriage Act 1944 the Minister of Labor, Home Affairs & Public Safety of the Bermuda Government can license a particular visiting minister or someone else certified in their jurisdiction as a qualified and competent religious minister or pastor or rabbi - for one Bermuda marriage ceremony. This means that if you can afford it and give plenty of notice yourself and also ensure that the clergy person or pastor of rabbi do the same via the same Bermuda Government office, you can bring in someone qualified from where either one or both of you live, to perform the wedding ceremony. In such circumstances, weddings can be in places other than local religious centers, if you can find a minister to do so (not easy if you are not local, you may need to consult a wedding planner). In all individual cases where a visiting priest or rabbi performs a marriage, a public notice of an "Appointment of a Marriage Officer" appears in a numbered Bermuda Government announcement in the Bermuda Official Gazette. It shows that the Minister of Labour, Home Affairs & Public Safety licenses the priest or rabbi of the publicly specified church or temple or synagogue or congregation to perform a marriage ceremony in Bermuda on the specified day. But understand that you may be asked to pay the transportation, accommodation, food and other costs and expenses of the religious person you arrange to bring in for the ceremony, or the relevant expenses of any local minister or equivalent.
Ceremonies may be held in a church or other location with the consent of a member of the clergy. They are entitled to make a charge for this service. They are required to ask for and obtain under Bermuda law the appropriate applications and approvals and/or consents referred to earlier. Wedding planners, dressmakers, etc. also apply extra charges. Only British subjects resident in England or Scotland or Northern Ireland who marry a British subject resident in Bermuda, and for whom banns are called in their normal place of worship in the United Kingdom, can also have their banns called in the church in Bermuda where the marriage takes place. Ask directly at the church for details. Some local churches will require considerable notice from both parties for weddings.
Married in Bermuda, by a church minister
The witnesses must be over 18 years of age and must be present at the ceremony. The Registrar will happily supply witnesses but Monday to Friday only.
No blood tests or health certificates are required in Bermuda. But note your Notice of Marriage notice is published by the Registry staff in two of the local newspapers of record in Bermuda, including the Official Gazette.
There are two types of such official public notices. They are one or other of the following:
This is what they both say, in this fictitious example:
"The persons named and described hereunder have given notice to me of their intended marriage, namely Do Re Me of River Drive, New York, New York 10025, USA (single) and Maiow B.Topcat (divorced) of Tennessee Drive, New York, New York 10025. Dated this 18th day of August, 2006. Marlene Christopher, Registrar General."
Historically, Bermuda was once known as the honeymoon capital.
Bermudians, locals or visitors, celebrate marriages in various ways. One way is to see lines of private cars all with horns blaring, en route to the wedding. When they come into sight, most cars are of a single make. The cars carrying members of the wedding party have ribbons adorning their bonnets. The ribbons were British customs adopted in Bermuda.
But many Bermudians and locals prefer horses and carriages - traditional Bermuda Surreys with the "fringes on top." A smartly-dressed carriage driver in a gleaming pith helmet, steers through the streets to the church a radiant, smiling, beautiful bride, with her immaculately attired father seated next to her.
When she smiles and waves to appreciative onlookers, the whole world wishes her well. Females watching the cavalcade get misty-eyed. After the wedding ceremony, the bride and her husband leave the church in the same way, clip-clopping to their changed lives ahead. Some nuptials - for locals only, who can persuade their church ministers to be there - are conducted on the pink sand of Bermuda's beaches.
Following behind them in more carriages to the wedding reception are the bride's parents, then the groom's parents in another, the bridesmaids and matron of honor in a third, and so on. Some newly-married couples head for a Bermuda Moongate to bring them luck. It's a local tradition. Popular beauty spots and attractions make perfect backdrops for wedding photographs, for example, the Bermuda Botanical Gardens or Palm Grove Gardens in Devonshire Parish. Bermuda Moongates have a particular appeal to newly-weds and are features of parks, hotels and many private properties. Although Moongates did not originate in Bermuda - the custom was imported from the Orient by Bermudian captains of sailing ships in the latter part of the 1800s - they have become a Bermudian tradition for newly-weds to step through together. The Lladro Bridal Couple figurine, imported, shown in the second photo below is gorgeous. It illustrates the local tradition of honeymooners walking through a moongate to be granted their wish for peace and happiness.
Bermuda Moongate at Tobacco Bay, showing a newly-married Maine couple. Photo copyrighted by this author.
Lladro figurine showing a Bermuda Moongate, a distinctive Bermuda wedding souvenir.
Traditional Bermuda wedding cakes are usually culinary works of art, often two, one for the bride and one for the groom. The bride's cake is usually a tiered rich dark fruit cake, laced with plenty of alcohol, iced with marzipan and silver leaf and topped with a small cedar tree to be planted by bride and groom as a sign of fertility. The groom's cake is a single layer pound cake again iced with marzipan, but with gold leaf. Especially (but not exclusively) when British expatriates are getting married, the wedding party and guests sing "For they are jolly good fellows." For weather forecasts on your Bermuda wedding day, consult Bermuda Weather. It is a Bermuda Government service, provided by the Ministry of Transport, Department of Air Operations.
Travel agents in the USA rate Bermuda as the seventh-best place in the world to tie the knot and for a honeymoon. Bermuda has also been number 5 in the top ten best places for romance. (Bermuda was not rated in places with the coolest beach sites, best beaches, best bargains or hottest wedding party spots).
If not a local, but needing music, you will not be allowed to import a musician, you must use someone local. It will be expensive. Or, as a less expensive alternative, bring special pre-recorded violin or other instrumental or choir or duet or trio or orchestral music of the type you and your spouse jointly really like, to make the occasion as romantic as possible. One of the most romantic and beautiful of all marriage proposal songs is this one, The Proposal, Sung by the Norman Luboff Choir, Alan Bergman, Marylyn Keith, Norman Luboff at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSSOQdU6tAM. Another is Like My Heart, also by the Norman Luboff Choir, written by William Attaway, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRinAPksjh4.
Some recommended music, by outstanding artistes:
|Music or song||Performer||composer|
|An Eriskay Love-Lilt||Celtic Tenors||traditional, Scottish|
|A Place In My Heart||Nana Mouskouri||J. P. Ferland/H. Shaper|
|Casta Diva. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2p5T8U2qGF4||Nana Mouskouri||Bellini|
|Der lindenbaum||Nana Mouskouri||Schubert|
|Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes||Roger Whittaker||English traditional, words by Ben Jonson, music at least by 1770|
|Fare Thee Well, Love||Celtic Tenors||Jimmy Rankin|
|Home Sweet Home||Home Sweet Home 19th Century Music Party||Bishop|
|If Dreams Came True, Dear. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30jJlIZRJ1c||Pat Boone|
|I Have A Dream||Nana Mouskouri||B. Anderson/B. Ulvaeus|
|In The Gloaming||Celtic Tenors||words Meta Orred, music Annie Fortescue Harrison|
|Last Rose of Summer||Celtic Tenors||words Thomas Moore, music traditional Irish|
|Liebestraum No. 3 (Dream of Love)||Various||Liszt|
|Listen To The Ocean. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXeGhIJWG5I||Nina & Frederick||Van Pallandt|
|My Love Is Like a Red Red Rose||Roger Whittaker||Robert Burns|
|Love Changes Everything||Nana Mouskouri||Lloyd Webber, Black, Hart|
|Only Time Will Tell||Nana Mouskouri||Schubert|
|Plaisir D'amour||Nana Mouskouri||Schwarzendorf|
|Qual Cor Tradisti, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BQxcaYp8Jk.||Nana Mouskouri||Bellini|
|Remember Me||Celtic Tenors||Phil Coulter|
|Romanza d'Amour||A violin duet||Anon|
|Summer of My Dreams||Celtic Tenors||David Mallett|
|The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face||Nana Mouskouri||E. Mac Coll|
|The Prince of Denmark's March, for trumpet and organ||Various||Clarke|
|The Power of Love||Nana Mouskouri||De Rouge/G. Mendell|
|Unchained Melody, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrK5u5W8afc||Righteous Brothers|
|Voi che sapete||Nana Mouskouri||Mozart|
|Wedding Day at Troldhaugen||Various||Grieg|
|Wedding March from a Midsummer Night's Dream||Various||Mendelssohn|
|Will You Come||Home Sweet Home 19th Century Music Party||Barnett|
|Emerald||May||Lily of the Valley|
|Seventh||Copper, Wool||Desk Sets|
|Tenth||Tin, Aluminum||Diamond Jewelry|
Marriages/Weddings at sea
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.
A marriage vow means a commitment for life in good times and bad, not just for a period of time, so marriage vow renewals are technically superfluous, a romantic notion but important to some. Some may want them to be as solemn as the original vows and at the same venue, before one's family and friends and with the same minister or at least in the same church or place of worship. Others seek a romantic offshore location like Bermuda. There is no legislation or regulation in Bermuda affecting marriage vows renewals. Unlike in the USA and other foreign countries where Justices of the Peace can perform both marriages and marriage renewals, in Bermuda they cannot. Because marriage vow renewals in Bermuda are not marriages they do not require the attendance of any local official licensed to perform a marriage. Which in effect means you can ask a member of a ship's crew, if you are on a cruise, or a friend, to officiate inexpensively instead of going through any unnecessary expense or bureaucracy.
See Bermuda Laws. Citizenship is not given to any non-national unless he or she marries a Bermudian of the opposite sex and stays married to and lives with that Bermudian for at least 10 years and then applies for citizenship and receives it.
Bermuda is gorgeous as a place in which to get married but be aware that because of its remoteness, very small size, with almost everything imported, only 62,400 permanent population and other lack of economies of scale through no fault of its own and significant Bermuda Government import duties averaging 35 percent of wholesale value, it is very expensive by USA standards. See Cost of Living Guide. This is why so many Bermudians infinitely prefer to do their furniture, hardware, appliances, computer and wedding shopping in the USA, despite the 35% Customs Duties now levied not per person but per household on returning residents for goods valued at more than $100.
How this compares with residents from USA, Canada and UK returning to their home jurisdictions from their Bermuda visit.
However, note that visitors
arriving in Bermuda to get married in Bermuda, in addition to their normal
personal effects such as golf clubs, clothes, camera, and relevant accessories
are permitted to import goods for Bermuda weddings (e.g. party favors, wedding
dress, wedding rings, wedding gifts) free of duty provided that they are
February 14, 2017.
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