Same-sex weddings to continue until end of May in Bermuda
Home Affairs Minister Walton Brown announced on Wednesday that he will allow same-sex couples to continue to marry until the end of May before they are banned by a new law passed by Bermuda’s parliament and endorsed by the Governor.
The controversial new legislation, tabled in the House of Assembly by Brown towards the end of last year, is designed to replace same-sex marriage with civil partnerships.
The Domestic Partnership Act was passed in parliament in December — first by the House of Assembly and then the Senate — and given royal assent by Governor John Rankin on February 7. But Brown said the start of the act had been delayed to June 1 to allow already-planned same-sex marriages in the island and on Bermuda-registered ships to take place. He added that same-sex couples could still apply for a marriage licence until May 12, after which they can only apply for a domestic partnership.
The Home Affairs Minister said the “Commencement has been delayed to allow for any same-sex marriages that have licences already issued and have been scheduled to be conducted in Bermuda or on-board Bermuda-registered ships to actually take place.”
Speaking during the Budget debate in the House on Home Affairs, Brown added: “The Registry General will continue to accept applications for same-sex marriages until May 12, 2018.
“Any application submitted by a same-sex couple after that date must be for a domestic partnership under the new act, not a marriage under the Marriage Act 1944 or the Maritime Marriage Act 1999.”
The Royal Gazette newspaper said on Tuesday that a date has been set in Supreme Court to challenge the new law designed to replace same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships open to gay and straight couples.
Chief Justice Ian Kawaley will hear the civil case brought by a gay Bermudian, Rod Ferguson, 38, against Attorney-General Kathy Lynn Simmons on May 21 and 22. Ferguson is a singer and stand-up comedian who lives in the United States.
The new legislation reverses last May’s Supreme Court decision by Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons which enabled gay people to wed here — a judgment won after Bermudian Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche, his Canadian partner, litigated against the Registrar-General for refusing to post their wedding banns.
Parliament’s decision to remove the right of gay people to marry has been met with criticism from around the world, including from British 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 last month, said the law reversal would make Britain a “laughing stock in the human rights field”.
Despite their landmark victory, Godwin and DeRoche chose to marry in Canada, but at least 10 gay couples have wed here with four more tying the knot aboard Bermuda-registered cruise ships.
The Netherlands was the first country to legalise same-sex marriage in 2001.