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Bermuda's ban on same-sex weddings comes into effect

Friday, June 01, 2018

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HAMILTON, Bermuda (CMC) — A controversial new law which bans same-sex marriage in Bermuda but gives gay and straight couples the chance to enter into civil unions has come into effect.

The Domestic Partnership Act 2018 (DPA) became law today as marriage-equality campaigners await a ruling from the Supreme Court on their attempt to have part of the legislation struck out on constitutional grounds.

The DPA was approved by this British Overseas Territory's parliament last December, sparking criticism from human rights activists and UK MPs, including Prime Minister Theresa May, who said she was “seriously disappointed”.

Opposition British Labour Party MP Chris Bryant, a former Overseas Territories Minister who forced a debate on the bill in the House of Commons in London, said the law reversal would make Britain a “laughing stock in the human rights field”.

Governor John Rankin gave the legislation royal assent on February 7 but Home Affairs Minister Walton Brown, who tabled the legislation, deferred its implementation until June 1 to give gay couples who had already made wedding plans extra time to tie the knot.

The DPA reversed a Supreme Court ruling in May last year — two months before the ruling One Bermuda Alliance lost the general election to the Progressive Labour Party — that paved the way for gay couples to get married in Bermuda and on ships registered in the island.

The Supreme Court decision came in a judgment by Justice Charles-Etta Simmons after Bermudian Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche, his Canadian partner, litigated against the Registrar-General for refusing to post their wedding banns.

Despite their landmark victory, Godwin and DeRoche chose to marry in Canada, but there were 10 same-sex marriages on the island up to the middle of February, plus four at sea on Bermuda-flagged ships.

Banns were also posted for two more maritime marriages.

The latest civil proceedings in Supreme Court were brought against Attorney- General Kathy Lynn Simmons by gay Bermudians Rod Ferguson and Maryellen Jackson and the charity OutBermuda.

The plaintiffs claimed the part of the DPA that reaffirmed that a marriage is void unless the parties are male and female was unconstitutional.

Chief Justice Ian Kawaley reserved judgment in the case until a later date.

Bermuda is the only country in the world to reverse its position on marriage equality. The Netherlands was the first country to legalise same-sex marriage in 2001.

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