Bermuda Government Begins Effort to Get Privy Council to Restore Ban on Same-Sex Marriage

HAMILTON, Bermuda, Friday December 14, 2018 – In yet another effort to have the ban on same-sex marriage restored, the Bermuda government yesterday gave notice to the local Court of Appeal to seek permission to take the fight to London’s Privy Council.

A legal challenge filed by a Bermuda gay man and his Canadian partner resulted in the Supreme Court giving the green light to same sex marriage in May 2017. Seven months later, a Domestic Partnership Act (DPA), which replaces same-sex marriage with a civil partnership arrangement, was passed.

It recognized same-sex marriages that had already happened, but banned any more from taking place, and offered domestic partnerships instead, effectively reversing marriage equality.

But former Chief Justice Ian Kawaley ruled in June this year that the Act was unconstitutional, in deciding on a challenge against the legislation, brought by a Bermudian living in the United States, Rod Ferguson. The government appealed the decision, but the Court of Appeal dismissed the challenge last month.

In giving notice of its plan to take the matter to the Privy Council, the government said the matter was important to the island’s people and involved complex legal points that should be heard by Bermuda’s highest court of appeal.

“Constitutional issues are important issues and this government wants to get it right,” said Deputy Premier and Minister of Home Affairs Walter Roban, according to the Royal Gazette.

The newspaper also reported that campaign group OutBermuda had urged ministers to stop wasting taxpayers’ money on “futile appeals”.

It further quoted Ferguson as saying that the Government’s efforts to repeal same-sex marriage “have come at quite a cost, not only monetarily, but also in terms of the impact on Bermuda’s LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender] community, and our island’s reputation overseas”.

“The courts have not found merit in the Government’s legal defence thus far, and are highly unlikely to do so upon appeal. At this point, an appeal to the Privy Council would merely serve to suit a political purpose. I implore the Government to stop playing politics with the right to same-sex marriage. Let the law uphold the dignity of all Bermudians,” he said.

The Bermuda government has argued that while the DPA does not provide for same-sex marriage, it permits any couple – heterosexual or homosexual – to enter into a domestic partnership, and it gives same-sex couples rights equivalent to those enjoyed by heterosexual married couples.

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