Same-Gender Marriage is Legal in Bermuda (again)

After Bermuda repealed its fledgling same-gender marriage law, things were looking bleak for the country’s LGBT community. But now, the Supreme Court has stepped in and declared same-gender marriage bans unconstitutional.

The ruling came on Wednesday, June 6, when Bermuda’s Supreme Court struck down part of Bermuda’s Domestic Partnership Act.

The Act, which was passed in December, specifically took aim at an earlier Supreme Court ruling. It eradicated same-gender marriage within Bermuda, instead providing same-gender couples with reduced domestic partnerships.

Bermuda’s Supreme Court was soon asked to adjudicate the law. LGBT rights activists argued that it was unconstitutional to remove a right that had been granted or to deny the constitutional principles and protections that had led to the Supreme Court legalizing same-gender marriage within the British Overseas Territory in the first place.

The government, which was a driving force behind the law, characterized the Domestic Partnership Act as an attempt “to strike a fair balance between two currently irreconcilable groups in Bermuda, by restating that marriage must be between a male and a female while at the same time recognising and protecting the rights of same-sex couples.”

The Supreme Court found this reasoning lacking. Chief Justice Ian Kawale, writing for the majority, said “Parliament could not validly reverse this Court’s decision that same-sex marriage was a right guaranteed by Bermudian law.”

Justice Kawale added that the Constitution does not permit the government to ”pass laws of general application which favour some beliefs at the expense of others.”

The ruling is stayed for six weeks to provide the government time to appeal, but unless it can find some procedural technicality on which to hinge such an application, it looks highly unlikely to succeed.

Zakiya Johnson Lord and Adrian Hartnett-Beasley of OUTBermuda hailed the decision as one of fairness.

“Love wins again! Our hearts and hopes are full, thanks to this historic decision by our Supreme Court and its recognition that all Bermuda families matter,” they said in a press release. “Equality under the law is our birthright, and we begin by making every marriage equal.”

The Bermuda situation had put the British government in an odd position. Technically, the UK still has jurisdiction over Bermuda, but this is a power that it almost never exercises anymore. And with good reason: its colonial history has not been forgotten. Though Bermuda is, for the moment, settled as British territory it has made motion to break away on a number of occasions.

Therefore, when Bermuda passed a law to ban same-gender marriage, the British government was in a bind and it ultimately chose to do nothing. It refused activists’ calls for it to act, saying that this decision must be fought within Bermuda.

Several officials, including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, noted that the UK stands for equality and LGBT rights and expects other nations to do likewise. For many activists, though, talk alone wasn’t good enough and ultimately could have resulted in more hardship for same-gender couples. For that reason, Johnson continues to be criticized.

The Supreme Court’s decision has been hailed by activists outside Bermuda too. UK-based human rights activist Peter Tatchell said in a statement, “This ruling will encourage and empower legal challenges to criminalisation and marriage inequality across the Caribbean, many of which are bound to succeed. It is indicative of the unstoppable global trend towards LGBT+ equal human rights.”

Indeed, this is where focus will now switch, as several cases throughout the Caribbean wait to be filed to challenge Britain’s legacy of anti-homosexuality laws.

Related at Care2

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

24 comments

Amanda M
Amanda M5 days ago

Marriage-a legal contract entered into by TWO CONSENTING ADULTS who love each other enough to want to spend the rest of their lives committed to each other. A religious ceremony (if any) is strictly OPTIONAL. The sooner the world realizes that, the better off we'll all be. Thank the Goddess and the God that Bermuda sees this and made same-gender marriage legal again! Now I can take Bermuda off my boycott list, and I'm glad of it-I went there on a swim team exchange trip when I was 16, and I would LOVE to take my family there someday, but I couldn't in good conscience do that while the boycott was in play. A bit of much-needed good news!

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Dave fleming
Dave f8 days ago

TFS

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Maria P
Maria P9 days ago

Thanks for the update

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Chrissie R
Chrissie R9 days ago

Thank you for posting. :-)))))))))

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Winn A
Winnie A9 days ago

Good news.

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Winn A
Winnie A9 days ago

Thanks

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Anne Moran
Anne Moran10 days ago

That's nice...

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Alea C
Alea C10 days ago

The only people who should be making decisions about their sex lives are the people involved.

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Loredana V
Loredana V10 days ago

Love is love, may they be happy !

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Mary B
Mary B10 days ago

It is long past time that the whole world grows up and gets over this stupid anti same gender issue. Life goes on.

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