Bermuda’s Supreme Court just ruled that a recently passed law revoking the right of same-sex couples to enter marriages as unconstitutional. The ruling doesn’t immediately restore Bermuda same-sex marriages. Instead, it gives the island nation’s government six weeks to decide whether to appeal, leaving LGBTQ Bermudians waiting to see what happens next.
The recently passed law, called “The Domestic Partnership Act,” voided all same-sex marriages and replaced them with “domestic partnerships” that same-sex and different-sex couples could enter. While the law claimed to bestow the same rights and privileges as marriages, the difference in name rendered them second-class unions without the same widespread name recognition. The Domestic Partnership Act just went into effect five days ago.
Soon after its passage, the Domestic Partnership Act faced two separate legal challenges: one filed by comedian Rod Ferguson and another filed by gay Bermudian Maryellen Jackson in conjunction with the local LGBTQ group OUTBermuda. The cases were eventually joined into one case against Bermuda’s Attorney-General Kathy Lynn Simmons.
In April 2018, Carnival cruise line joined the suit to provide “financial, civic and public relations support.” It did this in part because its Bermuda-based subsidiaries, Cunard and P&O Cruises, could no longer host same-sex marriages on board their ships after Bermuda revoked its marriage rights, denying the company a major draw for customers.
In a joint statement, Ferguson and Jackson said, “We all came to the court with one purpose. That was to overturn the unfair provisions of the Domestic Partnership Act that tried to take away the rights of same-sex couples to marry. Revoking same-sex marriage is not merely unjust, but regressive and unconstitutional; the Court has now agreed that our belief in same-sex marriage as an institution is deserving of legal protection and that belief was treated by the Act in a discriminatory way under Bermuda’s Constitution. We continue to support domestic partnership rights for all Bermudians to choose, but not at the expense of denying marriage to some.”
The Bermuda Supreme Court case first legalized same-sex marriage in May 2017 after Bermuda resident Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé Greg DeRoche (pictured in featured image above) argued that the country’s denial of marriage rights violated Bermuda’s Human Rights Act, constituting an act of discrimination.
Today’s ruling basically reached the exact same conclusion.