Marriage Equality Comes to Bermuda — Again!

British island territory has flip-flopped on issue in past two years

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Bermuda’s Court of Appeals ruled in favor of same-sex marriage on November 23, marking the second time the British island territory has achieved full marriage equality.

Bermuda’s Supreme Court originally ruled in favor of marriage equality in May of last year, but that progress was halted when Governor John Rankin reversed that decision by signing a same-sex marriage ban last December.

At the same time, Bermuda passed a Domestic Partnership Act, which recognized the marriages of same-sex couples who had already tied the knot. But that law only allowed for domestic partnerships rather than complete marriage equality for any other gay and lesbian couples.

In June, the Supreme Court ruled that the new law banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, but the question wasn’t settled until this month.

The latest ruling by the Court of Appeals, which hears appeals of cases from the Supreme Court, found the ban to be unconstitutional on the basis of freedom of conscience. That reasoning differs from many other nations, where marriage equality was achieved on the basis of sexual orientation discrimination claims.

Rod Attride-Sterling, an attorney who represented Maryellen Jackson, one of the plaintiffs who successfully challenged the marriage ban, told Bermuda’s Royal Gazette that the decision could set a wide-ranging precedent around the world — particularly for nations that don’t offer equal protection guarantees against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

“All those countries will now have the ability of running a whole new argument, and I expect to see more and more countries run arguments like these,” he said.

Jackson and another applicant, Roderick Ferguson, said in a joint written statement that they were grateful for the court’s decision.

“Equality under the law is every Bermudian’s birthright,” the pair said. “Bermuda’s LGBTQ community is strong and proud. When our voices join together, we will be heard, and we will continue to make progress.”

The Bermudian government has three weeks to appeal the ruling.

Updated 3:54 pm, November 29, 2018
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