Sexuality Policy Watch

Same-sex couples can now marry in Bermuda

Text by Josh Jackman originally published at Pink News on May 05, 2017. Available here.

Same-sex marriage is now permitted in Bermuda after a gay couple won their legal challenge to tie the knot in the country.

Bermudian native Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé Greg DeRoche took their case to the Supreme Court, arguing that the country’s Human Rights Act protected their right to marry.

And the court decided today that not letting them marry would constitute discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

While handing down her ruling, Justice Charles-Etta Simmons said that the couple were “discriminated against” when authorities previously stopped them from getting married.

“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,” she added.

Last year, voters in Bermuda roundly rejected same-sex marriage in a referendum which was non-binding because of low turnout.

Godwin told Bermudian publication The Royal Gazette: “I feel a huge sense of relief.

“It’s been a long road to get to this stage for me and Greg, and for (their lawyer) Mark (Pettingill), and also for Bermuda.

“It has been a long time coming. This ruling, although it was in our favour…there is still so much more to do in Bermuda.

“This is a big step in the right direction. I cannot thank my legal team and my supporters enough.”

The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda, an LGBT group on the group of North Atlantic islands, quoted Mr Godwin and Mr DeRoche saying: “We appreciate all the positive affirmations and support.

“This has been a long process, but well worth the fight.

“Hopefully, this brings forward hope and courage for those who were/are afraid to speak up or come out. This is a moment we are proud of and will never forget.”

Lawyer Rod Attride-Stirling, who acted on behalf of the couple, said: “I am glad to see that the Bermuda court has followed…South Africa, which decided this issue in 2005, and then the United States, which followed suit in 2015.

“The message of hate and exclusion has been rejected. Human rights means human rights for all humans. Equally. No one is excluded.

“Gays who want to marry can now do so.”

He commented that it was “a matter of great shame” that the Bermudian legislature had not acted before the courts to make same-sex marriage legal.

“Bermuda owes a huge debt of gratitude to the two brave young men who brought this action, Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche,” he added.

“They will always be remembered as heroes of the human rights movement.”

In its statement, the Rainbow Alliance said that the ruling was “a victory for all same-gender loving people in Bermuda.

“In this decision, the courts have affirmed that the love between two consenting adults is worth protecting with law, regardless of gender.

“This outcome ensures that same-gender couples can enjoy the same legal protections as heterosexual spouses do.

“This outcome preserves the notion that love is the greatest force of all.”

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