Thursday 2 April, 2020

Gay couple seeking to wed in Bermuda wins landmark case

A gay couple is one step closer to marrying in Bermuda after a landmark ruling agreed that the rejection of their marriage application was a contravention of the Human Rights Act.

A report by the Royal Gazette said the case involving Bermudian Winston Godwin, and his fiancée Greg DeRoche, was brought before the Supreme Court which ruled that the Registrar General’s rejection of their application for marriage was inconsistent with the provisions of the Human Rights Act.

Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons said, during the ruling that the couple was discriminated against based on their sexual orientation.

“The common law definition of marriage, that marriage is the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman, and its reflection in the Marriage Act section 24 and the Matrimonial Clauses Act section 15 (c) are inconsistent with the provisions of the Human Rights Act as they constitute deliberate different treatment on the basis of sexual orientation.”

“In so doing the common law discriminates against same-sex couples by excluding them from marriage and more broadly speaking the institution of marriage.”

“On the facts of this case the applicants were discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation when the Registrar refused to process their notice of intended marriage.”

“Same-sex couples denied access to marriage laws and entry into the institution of marriage have been denied what the Human Rights Commission terms a “basket of goods”, that is rights of a spouse contained in numerous enactments of Parliament.”

“The applicants are entitled to an Order of Mandamus compelling the Registrar to act in accordance with the requirements of the Marriage Act and a Declaration that same-sex couples are entitled to be married under the Marriage Act 1944.”

The couple said they intend to file a new application as soon as possible.

In Bermuda, prior to 1994, gay male sexual conduct were punishable by up to ten years imprisonment, however after the passing of the Stubbs Bill, gay male sexual conduct was legalised in Bermuda, but with a higher age of consent for gay male sexual conduct at 18, as opposed to 16 which is the age of consent for heterosexual and lesbian sexual conduct.

In 2016, a non-binding referendum on same-sex marriage was held in Bermuda where 60–70 percent of voters rejected same-sex marriages. However, the referendum was invalid as less than 50 percent of eligible voters turned out.

 

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