“Sad day for Bermuda” says couple who fought for same-sex marriage

by STAFF WRITER

HAMILTON, Bermuda, Feb 8, CMC  –  A gay couple whose landmark Supreme Court victory last year paved the way for same-sex marriages in the island have spoken of their “sadness” after Governor John Rankin signalled the end of such unions,  that will be replaced by civil partnerships.

The end for same-sex marriages in this British Overseas Territory and aboard Bermuda-registered cruise ships came when Rankin gave the royal assent to the Domestic Partnership Act 2017 on Wednesday.

Rankin signed the legislation 61 days after it was passed in the House of Assembly and 56 days in the wake of its approval by the Senate.

Rankin said he signed the new act into law “after careful consideration in line with my responsibilities under the constitution”.

The move ended weeks of speculation over whether Britain would allow the legislation, and dashed the hopes of activists in Bermuda and overseas who had asked Rankin to reject the new law.

It follows a landmark decision by the Supreme Court in May 2017, when Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons ruled that the island’s Registrar-General could not reject a gay couple’s application to marry in Bermuda.

The decision paved the way for same-sex marriage on the island, and the first same-sex couple made their vows at the Registry-General’s office less than a month later.

The judgment was the result of a lawsuit brought by a gay couple, Winston Godwin, a Bermudian, and his Canadian partner Greg DeRoche, against the Registrar-General’s decision to refuse to post their wedding banns. The pair eventually wed in Canada but at least eight other gay couples were married on the island, according to British opposition Labour Party MP Chris Bryant.

Godwin said he and his partner were “deeply saddened” by the Governor’s decision.

“It’s a sad day for Bermuda. It’s a sad day for human rights.

The Governor was placed between a rock and a hard place with this poorly planned and rushed bill,” Godwin said.

But he told the island’s LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) community: “While Greg and I were the face of this case, we represented every single one of you and helped to give a voice to those that didn’t have one.

“Because of you, we were able to make a difference in the lives of eight couples and that’s something that shouldn’t be understated or forgotten.

“You are all loved and are worthy of love.”

Lawyer Mark Pettingill, a former Attiorney-General, said the battle for the return of same-sex marriage in Bermuda could end up in Europe’s highest courts.

Pettingill said the royal assent meant that any further legal action would need to be heard in higher courts.

Pettingill, who fought the May 2017 Supreme Court case that paved the way for same-sex marriage, added: “This is now something that would necessarily invite consideration beyond our shores. There is potential for a challenge going all the way to the European courts.”

He added: “I take the view, as do a number of other lawyers, that there is a case to be heard on the basis of the rights enshrined in our constitution.

“The question becomes, are there any relevant parties that are prepared to take up that fight?”

Pettingill said: “I feel that potential is there. Unfortunately, there are the risks of losing, which would probably incur substantial legal costs.

“These things are not cheap to run. Anybody who decided to take up that challenge as a litigant would have to think very carefully about the possibility that they could lose, and the risks involved.”

Home Affairs Minister Walton Brown, who tabled the legislation in the House last November, said the act represented “a compromise piece of legislation which does not bring any high level of satisfaction to any side” in the island’s long-running row over same-sex marriage.

Speaking from London, Brown said the provisions of the act were “the only position that could be taken at this point”.

“This difficult piece of legislation was developed in such a way as to ensure that it fully complies with our constitution.Clearly anyone has the right to challenge anything they want, but it must be a challenge with merit,” Brown noted.

Same-sex marriage and civil unions were voted on in a non-binding referendum in June 2016.

The referendum failed to attract the 50 per cent minimum of registered voters needed to rule that questions were “answered”.

But those who did vote rejected both same-sex marriage and civil unions by a margin of more than two to one.

Brown said on Wednesday night the referendum showed that the majority of Bermudians did not support same-sex marriage.

But the Governor’s decision attracted fast condemnation from overseas.

Bryant, a former Overseas Territories Minister who called for the House of Commons debate in London last month, said on Wednesday night: “This totally undermines UK efforts to advance LGBT rights.”

Sir Alan Duncan, Minister of State at the Foreign Office, said during the Commons debate that Britain was “disappointed” by Bermuda’s decision to reverse marriage equality.

Ty Cobb, director at Washington-based Human Rights Campaign Global, called the move a “deplorable action”.

Sarah Kate Ellis, president and chief executive of New York’s Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, added: “LGBTQ couples and their children in Bermuda should know that the global community of LGBTQ people and allies will stand with them in rectifying this unjust and hurtful news.

“Love can never be rolled back.”

Clare O’Connor, a Bermudian journalist working overseas, promised to do her to best to damage the island as a tourist destination.

“I will be encouraging my LGBTQ friends to spend their money elsewhere,” she said.

“This is despicable and I hope the (ruling) Progressive Labour Party and Governor understand the damage they’ve done.”

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by STAFF WRITER

HAMILTON, Bermuda, Feb 8, CMC  –  A gay couple whose landmark Supreme Court victory last year paved the way for same-sex marriages in the island have spoken of their “sadness” after Governor John Rankin signalled the end of such unions,  that will be replaced by civil partnerships.

The end for same-sex marriages in this British Overseas Territory and aboard Bermuda-registered cruise ships came when Rankin gave the royal assent to the Domestic Partnership Act 2017 on Wednesday.

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Rankin signed the legislation 61 days after it was passed in the House of Assembly and 56 days in the wake of its approval by the Senate.

Rankin said he signed the new act into law “after careful consideration in line with my responsibilities under the constitution”.

The move ended weeks of speculation over whether Britain would allow the legislation, and dashed the hopes of activists in Bermuda and overseas who had asked Rankin to reject the new law.

It follows a landmark decision by the Supreme Court in May 2017, when Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons ruled that the island’s Registrar-General could not reject a gay couple’s application to marry in Bermuda.

The decision paved the way for same-sex marriage on the island, and the first same-sex couple made their vows at the Registry-General’s office less than a month later.

The judgment was the result of a lawsuit brought by a gay couple, Winston Godwin, a Bermudian, and his Canadian partner Greg DeRoche, against the Registrar-General’s decision to refuse to post their wedding banns. The pair eventually wed in Canada but at least eight other gay couples were married on the island, according to British opposition Labour Party MP Chris Bryant.

Godwin said he and his partner were “deeply saddened” by the Governor’s decision.

“It’s a sad day for Bermuda. It’s a sad day for human rights.

The Governor was placed between a rock and a hard place with this poorly planned and rushed bill,” Godwin said.

But he told the island’s LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) community: “While Greg and I were the face of this case, we represented every single one of you and helped to give a voice to those that didn’t have one.

“Because of you, we were able to make a difference in the lives of eight couples and that’s something that shouldn’t be understated or forgotten.

“You are all loved and are worthy of love.”

Lawyer Mark Pettingill, a former Attiorney-General, said the battle for the return of same-sex marriage in Bermuda could end up in Europe’s highest courts.

Pettingill said the royal assent meant that any further legal action would need to be heard in higher courts.

Pettingill, who fought the May 2017 Supreme Court case that paved the way for same-sex marriage, added: “This is now something that would necessarily invite consideration beyond our shores. There is potential for a challenge going all the way to the European courts.”

He added: “I take the view, as do a number of other lawyers, that there is a case to be heard on the basis of the rights enshrined in our constitution.

“The question becomes, are there any relevant parties that are prepared to take up that fight?”

Pettingill said: “I feel that potential is there. Unfortunately, there are the risks of losing, which would probably incur substantial legal costs.

“These things are not cheap to run. Anybody who decided to take up that challenge as a litigant would have to think very carefully about the possibility that they could lose, and the risks involved.”

Home Affairs Minister Walton Brown, who tabled the legislation in the House last November, said the act represented “a compromise piece of legislation which does not bring any high level of satisfaction to any side” in the island’s long-running row over same-sex marriage.

Speaking from London, Brown said the provisions of the act were “the only position that could be taken at this point”.

“This difficult piece of legislation was developed in such a way as to ensure that it fully complies with our constitution.Clearly anyone has the right to challenge anything they want, but it must be a challenge with merit,” Brown noted.

Same-sex marriage and civil unions were voted on in a non-binding referendum in June 2016.

The referendum failed to attract the 50 per cent minimum of registered voters needed to rule that questions were “answered”.

But those who did vote rejected both same-sex marriage and civil unions by a margin of more than two to one.

Brown said on Wednesday night the referendum showed that the majority of Bermudians did not support same-sex marriage.

But the Governor’s decision attracted fast condemnation from overseas.

Bryant, a former Overseas Territories Minister who called for the House of Commons debate in London last month, said on Wednesday night: “This totally undermines UK efforts to advance LGBT rights.”

Sir Alan Duncan, Minister of State at the Foreign Office, said during the Commons debate that Britain was “disappointed” by Bermuda’s decision to reverse marriage equality.

Ty Cobb, director at Washington-based Human Rights Campaign Global, called the move a “deplorable action”.

Sarah Kate Ellis, president and chief executive of New York’s Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, added: “LGBTQ couples and their children in Bermuda should know that the global community of LGBTQ people and allies will stand with them in rectifying this unjust and hurtful news.

“Love can never be rolled back.”

Clare O’Connor, a Bermudian journalist working overseas, promised to do her to best to damage the island as a tourist destination.

“I will be encouraging my LGBTQ friends to spend their money elsewhere,” she said.

“This is despicable and I hope the (ruling) Progressive Labour Party and Governor understand the damage they’ve done.”