Sat | Jun 23, 2018

Bermuda's Chief Justice rules that sections of legislation banning same-sex marriage unconstitutional

Published:Wednesday | June 6, 2018 | 3:43 PM
CMC photo

HAMILTON, Bermuda, CMC – Chief Justice Ian Kawaley Wednesday ruled that some sections of the controversial Domestic Partnership Act 2018 (DPA) were unconstitutional, paving the way for gay couples to once again marry in Bermuda.

But even as he upheld the constitutional challenge to the DPA, the Chief Justice said that he was allowing time for the government to appeal the ruling before the new measure goes into effect.

Delivering his judgement before a packed courtroom, Justice Kawaley, who steps down as Chief Justice later this year, said the sections of the act which revoked the right to same-sex marriage were invalid because they were inconsistent with provisions in Bermuda’s constitution which give the right to freedom of conscience and creed.

His ruling came five days after the DPA came into effect, banning same-sex marriage in Bermuda but giving gay and straight couples the chance to enter into civil unions.

The Government has an automatic right to appeal the ruling.

The Chief Justice agreed to an application by Solicitor-General Melvyn Douglas to stay the effect of the judgement for six weeks until it decides whether to appeal, meaning the current ban on same-sex marriage will remain in place.

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.

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

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”.

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