Bermuda’s technical ban on same-sex marriages may be reinstated after over three years of back-and-forth. Then again, it may not. The UK territory’s Privy Council is currently reviewing the final chapter in this saga of back-and-forth. Read on for the full story.
Bermuda’s Ban on Same-Sex Marriage May Finally Come to an End
Bermuda is by far one of the most confusing nations when it comes to same-sex marriage rights. They were the first in the world to legalize it and then ban it again. Back in 2017, the British territory in the Caribbean passed legislation making it legal. Six months later, they took it back and swapped it out with a “domestic partnership” law instead. Then they legalized it again in December 2018. Confused yet? It gets trickier. The moment the marriage equality went back into effect, opponents filed appeals.
Now, just over two years later, the nation’s Privy Council is taking a deep look at whether or not the Progressive Labour Party’s 2018 Domestic Partnership Act (DPA), is even constitutional. As of today, the Council is “reserving judgement” and plans to issue their decision at an unspecified later date. According to NewsAmericas, legal sources claim that the outcome could set a precedent for marriage equality across all of the British territories (and even former territories). Whether that will be a good precedent or a bad one depends entirely on the council’s decision.
Supporters say it’s unconstitutional to ban same-sex marriage
According to the Royal Gazette, Lord Pannick QC stood up for supporters of same-sex marriage before the council yesterday and said,
“The wish of some people to live in a society in which other people are not allowed to marry because they are a same-sex couple is not a reasonable aim.”
Pannick added that it is unconstitutional for governments to create a “hierarchy of beliefs” and show preference to one at the expense of another. He makes some excellent points regarding how the constitutional protections should apply to individual beliefs, saying,
“The real issue is justification. Is there an adequate justification to the schoolgirl she cannot wear a hijab, to say to the worker in the hospital they cannot wear a crucifix? We are very concerned that the narrow definition would exclude that entire category of questions.”
He concluded by adding that banning same-sex marriages wouldn’t just affect gay and lesbian couples, but every single person who wants to be involved in the process, including officiants. His final point, however, is perhaps the best of all. He explained that “people whose faith stipulated only opposite-sex marriage would not suffer any harm if same-sex marriage was allowed.”
In other words, two men or two women tying the knot has zero effect on a man and a woman’s ability to do the same.
Opposing council claims a same-sex marriage ban is NOT unconstitutional
Pannick’s main argument is that it is unconstitutional to create legislation based on religious beliefs. In an opposing viewpoints article on the Royal Gazette, QC Jonathan Crow, who is representing the Attorney-General of Bermuda, argued the opposite. Crow claims that legislation can have a religious purpose as long as it doesn’t have a “negative effect on the rights of the public.” Apparently, banning same-sex marriage doesn’t fit his definition of “negative effect.”
Crow also stated that
Marriage is not a unilateral act by an individual. Marriage is an interaction between the state and the individuals by means of civil law.”
Since the legalization of same-sex marriage in Bermuda, only 30 couples have tied the knot there, and two couples entered into a domestic partnership. We’ll keep you updated on the final ruling by the Privy Council.