Several companies support marriage equality in Bermuda

HAMILTON, Bermuda, Jun 14, CMC – More than 50 companies across Bermuda have come out in support of same-sex marriage, joining a list of “diversity friendly” businesses.

According to the Royal Gazette newspaper , a total of 58 businesses , ranging from bars and luxury hotels to law firms, global banks and brokerages, had  – up to  Tuesday, signed up, with several new additions since last week’s Supreme Court ruling in favour of gay marriage.

The ruling Progressive Labour Party (PLP) has said it will appeal against the ruling by Chief Justice Ian Kawaley, who is due to step down shortly.

Veteran entertainer and same-sex marriage activist Tony Brannon said: “People are asking to join the list. Right now, it seems to be catching on. We seem to be adding to the list every day.”

Campaigners set up the list to underline how many island firms are in favour of marriage equality.

Brannon said some business owners had told him they supported the campaign for marriage equality but wanted to do so “quietly”.

But he challenged them to stand up for what they believe in and add their names to the list.

Brannon highlighted cruise giants Carnival, which registers some of its fleet in Bermuda, as an example of a company doing the right thing.

The shipping firm gave financial and public relations support to plaintiffs involved in the court battle for same-sex marriage.

Many international firms with a presence on the island have supported LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights elsewhere, but stayed silent on them in Bermuda, the Gazette said.

But Brannon said he hoped they would have the courage to join the list in the wake of the Chief Justice’s ruling last week and a Supreme Court judgment in May last year, which first paved the way for gay couples to marry on the island and on Bermuda-registered cruise ships around the world.

“I’m not going to stop until Premier David Burt knows many companies have joined the list,” Brannon said.

Justice Kawaley ruled that the new Domestic Partnership Act (DPA) , which outlawed gay marriage in Bermuda and came into force on June 1 , was inconsistent with constitutional protections giving the right to freedom of conscience and outlawing discrimination on the basis of creed.

Home Affairs Minister Walton Brown said the government would appeal “subject to any legal advice we receive”.

The government has six weeks to decide whether to appeal before Mr Justice Kawaley’s judgment takes effect.

“They are mad not to just accept this. They have lost two Supreme Court cases. There is the politics of it all but I hope at the end of the day what the Premier does is accept the legal advice,” Brannon noted.

He has predicted that some international companies might “vote with their feet” if the government continued to try to reverse marriage equality in the face of widespread criticism in Bermuda and overseas.

Justice Kawaley’s decision came after a court battle fought by gay Bermudians Rod Ferguson and Maryellen Jackson and the charity OutBermuda.

The DPA, which was tabled in the House of Assembly by Brown, reversed a Supreme Court ruling in May last year, two months before the ruling One Bermuda Alliance lost the general election to the PLP — that paved the way for gay couples to get married in Bermuda and on ships registered in the island.

Last May’s Supreme Court decision 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 DPA put Bermuda in the unique position of being the only country in the world to have allowed gay marriage and then revoked that right.

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

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