Bermuda: Victory for love as gay couple win right to marry

Greg DeRoche & Winston Godwin

A gay couple in Bermuda have won the right to marry, effectively legalising same-sex marriage on the Caribbean island.

On Friday, the Bermuda Supreme Court ruled that barring same-sex couples from marrying was discriminatory and in contravention of the country’s Human Rights Act.

Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé, Greg DeRoche, took the issue of marriage equality to the courts after they were denied a marriage license in July 2016.

Under the Marriage Act, marriage was limited to only being possible between one man and one woman. Judge Charles-Etta Simmons said on Friday that this constitutes “deliberate different treatment on the basis of sexual orientation”.

She added: “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 1944.”

After the ruling, Godwin told The Royal Gazette that he and his partner planned to resubmit their application to marry to the Registrar-General in the coming days.

“The ruling today is more than me and pieces of paper; it’s more than any of that, it is what it means for Bermuda moving forward,” he said.

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

The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda said it was “overwhelmed with joy” at the news.

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

In June last year, 51% of Bermudians who voted in a referendum came out against legalising both same-sex unions and marriages. However, because only 46.89% of registered voters took part in the poll, the results were declared invalid.

Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory; it is internally self-governing but the UK is responsible for defence and foreign relations.

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