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Bermuda government loses same-sex marriage appeal

Published:Friday | November 23, 2018 | 1:55 PM
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HAMILTON, Bermuda (CMC)  — Bermuda’s same-sex marriage campaigners celebrated in court on Friday after the ruling Progressive Labour Party (PLP) government lost its latest legal battle.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the government’s claim that former Chief Justice Ian Kawaley erred in a ruling that reopened the door to same-sex marriage in the British overseas territory.

The judge had found that a clause in the Domestic Partnership Act (DPA) that specified marriage as between a man and a woman was unconstitutional.

An application by the government to stay the Court of Appeal’s decision was also refused on Friday, meaning that same-sex marriage in the island and on Bermuda-registered ships is now legal.

However, sources said the government may apply for the matter to be heard by the Privy Council in London within the next 21 days, at which point a stay may be granted.

Bermuda became the only country in the world to have allowed same-sex marriage and then ban it.

The case was the latest in a series of legal battles over same-sex marriage in Bermuda.

In a joint statement, the successful applicants, Maryellen Jackson and Roderick Ferguson, said, “Speaking for ourselves and on behalf of gay and lesbian Bermudians, we are grateful for the court’s decision and its recognition of the significance of marriage in supporting and protecting our families.

“Equality under the law is every Bermudian’s birthright. Bermuda’s LGBTQ community is strong and proud. When our voices join together, we will be heard, and we will continue to make progress.”

Justice Charles-Etta Simmons found in May 2017 that the restriction of marriage to a man and a woman was against the island’s Human Rights Act.

That ruling made same-sex marriage possible, and the then-ruling One Bermuda Alliance administration decided not to appeal.

But the PLP government, which toppled the alliance in a landslide general-election victory in July last year, replaced same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships in December 2017 through the DPA.

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