Equal marriage is once again legal in Bermuda…. for now.
The country’s Supreme Court effectively legalised same-sex marriage in May 2017 with a landmark ruling, after it deemed a ban on such a union a discriminatory violation of human rights.
However, in December 2017 the Bermuda Assembly voted to re-ban same-sex marriage just six months after it was legalised.
Lawmakers put forward a new bill where same-sex couples can enter into a domestic partnership instead.
It effectively offered the same rights as marriage between a man and a woman, but same-sex couples would not be able to perform it under the title of ‘marriage’.
This new legislation came into effect on Friday, but the issue went back to the Supreme Court as clauses in the Domestic Partnership Act were deemed unconstitutional.
Chief Justice Ian Kawaley agreed and his verdict ruled once again that it is unconstitutional to ban same-sex marriage in Bermuda.
The legal challenges were brought forward by Bermudians Rod Ferguson and Maryellen Jackson, as well as LGBTQ group OUTBermuda.
The cruise ship industry also partly funded the legal challenge, as Bermuda’s economy massively benefits from ships that regularly dock at the island bringing in hundreds of thousands of tourists each year.
Pro-marriage equality campaigners in Bermuda / © Tony Brannon via Instagram
However, same-sex couple won’t be able to get married immediately as the ruling has been stayed for six weeks.
This gives the government time to consider the ruling and how it plans to move forward with the verdict.
“Love wins again! Our hearts and hopes are full, thanks to this historic decision by our Supreme Court and its recognition that all Bermuda families matter,” said Zakiya Johnson Lord and Adrian Hartnett-Beasley of OUTBermuda.
“Equality under the law is our birthright, and we begin by making every marriage equal.
“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.”
They added: “We stood up for ourselves and called out discrimination. We have done good work here.
“This is a win for all the young LGBTQ kids that are out there that maybe haven’t even identified their sexuality.
“They are looking at us as the generation above them.
“We are showing up for them, even if we don’t know them. We are showing up for them with our voices, with our visibility and with our resources.”
Bermuda, a collection of small North Atlantic islands with a population of under 65,000, held a referendum on same-sex marriage in June 2016 which saw an overwhelming majority vote against changing the law.
69% voted against marriage equality, and only 31% voted in its favour. However, only 46.89% of those registered on the electorate turned out to vote, which is below the 50% required to deem a question “answered”.