Government files appeal against same-sex marriage ruling

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HAMILTON, Bermuda, Jul 5, CMC – The Bermuda government has confirmed it has lodged an appeal against a Supreme Court decision to reverse a controversial ban on same-sex marriage in this British Overseas Territory.
The Ministry of Home Affairs said on Thursday it has started proceedings against Chief Justice Ian Kawaley’s landmark ruling on June 6 to declare parts of the newly introduced Domestic Partnership Act (DPA) invalid.
Same-sex marriage campaigners OutBermuda hit back, saying: “We will never surrender equality for all Bermudians, and especially the LGBTQ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer] families and couples who deserve it.”Home Affairs Minister Walton Brown, who introduced the DPA legislation in the House of Assembly, said: “We have filed an appeal in this matter. We look forward to having this matter heard by the Court of Appeal.”
Justice Kawaley ruled last month in favour of gay Bermudians Rod Ferguson and Maryellen Jackson, who claimed the legislation was unconstitutional, but he gave the government six weeks in which to appeal his decision.
The DPA was passed by the House and the Senate last December to reverse a Supreme Court ruling from May last year which enabled gay couples to marry.
The new legislation came into force on June 1, revoking the right of gay couples to marry and offering them, and heterosexual couples, legally recognised civil unions.
The Chief Justice, who is due to step down shortly, found the new legislation was inconsistent with provisions in the constitution giving the right to freedom of conscience and outlawing discrimination on the basis of creed.
The passing of the DPA made Bermuda the only country in the world to have allowed gay marriage and then revoked that right.
Reacting to news of government’s decision to appeal the Chief Justice’s decision, Ferguson said on Thursday: “Just one month ago, LGBTQ Bermudians inched closer to our goal of restoring marriage equality. We regret this ill-advised and costly decision to appeal the Supreme Court’s finding, and we will summon our voices and resources again as a united community to prevail.”
OutBermuda, which served as a co-litigant in the original lawsuit, will join again with Ferguson, Jackson and other allies.
The original Supreme Court decision in May last year came in a judgment by Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons after Bermudian Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche, his Canadian partner, litigated against the Registrar-General for refusing to post their wedding banns.
Despite their landmark victory, Godwin and DeRoche chose to marry in Canada, but there were 10 same-sex marriages on the island up to the middle of February, plus four at sea on Bermuda-flagged ships.
Banns were also posted for two more maritime marriages.
The firestorm of criticism it sparked here and abroad led to Ferguson’s decision to launch his crowdsourced civil case against the Attorney-General on the grounds that his constitutional rights had been breached.
Jackson and OutBermuda, with partial funding from Carnival Cruise Line, later filed a separate lawsuit and asked for it to be joined with Ferguson’s case.
Bermudian lawyer Julia Saltus and her Ghanaian-American partner Judith Aidoo were the first gay couple to wed here more than a year ago.

The Netherlands was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2001.
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