Op-Ed: For Bermuda, the Arguments over Marriage Equality are Settled; It’s Time to Accept the Results

 

NOTE: OUTBermuda and its co-plaintiffs won a crucial victory for marriage equality in November at Bermuda’s highest court. Nonetheless, the Government of Bermuda is weighing whether to appeal this outcome to the Privy Council in the U.K. – one last attempt to divide the nation and stand in the path of equality for Bermuda’s LGBTQ people. The deadline for this appeal is December 14.

 

OUTBermuda Op-Ed – On November 23, the Bermuda Court of Appeal sided not only with our Constitution but with OUTBermuda and our LGBTQ citizens, families and friends, in favor of marriage equality. The Court’s judgement was fair and final, in our view, and we strongly urge the Government now to embrace justice and equality as our birthright.

 

Our Parliament was created by the Bermuda Constitution, and its lawmaking powers are limited by our constitutional principles.  Where any government makes laws that infringe upon the constitutional rights of any person, that person has always has recourse to the courts even, or especially if they are in a minority. Even if they fall in love and wish to marry someone of the same sex.

 

The Bermuda Government lost round one in court, because it would not initially compromise by adopting civil unions and, instead, sided with a vocal minority determined to quash any kind of legal recognition of same-sex relationships.  The Bermuda Government then lost rounds two and three in court because Parliament acted outside the authority granted by the Constitution and failed to respect the LGBTQ community’s constitutional rights.  Every Bermudian is protected under the Constitution, and is guaranteed the freedom of conscience, as well as the right to hold a chosen religious belief, or alternatively not to hold any religious belief at all.  The courts agree with us that Government trampled on those rights.

 

As a practical matter, marriage equality has been the law of Bermuda since the Godwin case was resolved in May 2017.  Since that historic decision no one in Bermuda has been adversely impacted by the same-sex marriages that have taken place in these islands or aboard Bermuda-registered cruise ships.  Importantly:


No minister of religion has been forced to perform a wedding for a same-sex couple;

No church has been forced to host a wedding or reception for a same-sex couple;

No individual who holds a religiously based view opposing marriages between same-sex couples has been forced to alter their beliefs;

No individual, organization, church or other group has been forced to amend their doctrine, or creed, or form of worship;

No heterosexual person has been forced into a marriage with someone of the same sex;

The earth has continued traversing its path around the sun, rising in the east over St. David’s and setting in the west beyond Somerset.


The Bermuda Government has lost three historic rounds in Court in the past year. That means Bermuda taxpayers now are responsible for hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by all parties to the litigation – including paying much (though not all) of OUT Bermuda’s expenses.

 

OUTBermuda is indebted to the financial, emotional and spiritual support provided by Bermuda’s LGBTQ community and our global allies throughout the costly and demanding court process.  We were ably and magnificently served by our counsel, Rod Attride-Stirling, and his legal team.

 

The argument over marriage equality is now settled.  A further appeal will not consider the rights and wrongs of whether two men or two women should be permitted to marry.  Instead, a further, futile appeal will embolden the Government to argue that it is entitled to ignore constitutional protections afforded all Bermudians where it is politically expedient for it to do so. OUTBermuda believes no democratic government should ever make that case.

 

All Bermudians look forward to the day that we reconcile our differences, we redeem our blessings, and we reward each other with full equality under the law and within our own loving marriages.

 

Chen Foley – Director

Zakiya Johnson Lord – Director

OUTBermuda