Saturday, May 06, 2017

Bermuda Supreme Court Legalizes Gay Marriage

The Reefs - a Bermuda hotel once owned by friends

Equality has finally won out in Bermuda as the island nation's Supreme Court struck down bans on same sex marriage.  Sadly, as is the case in a number of Caribbean island nations - although Bermuda is in the Atlantic Ocean - ignorance embracing and reactionary religious beliefs were for too long allowed to deprive others of civil rights.   The husband and I were in Bermuda as part of a cruise in 2015 and found the country to be beautiful and an attractive destination but for its legalized discrimination against same sex couples.   What was the most ironic is that the country desperately wants in increase is tourism industry which has declined due to the growing popularity of cruises yet had a "Not Welcome" sign of sorts for LGBT tourists - a group that has been documented to stay longer and spend more than straight tourists.  The Royal Gazette looks at this welcomed development:
A gay couple have won a landmark legal ruling that paves the way for same-sex marriage in Bermuda.
Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian fiancé, Greg DeRoche, embarked on their fight for equal rights after the Registrar-General rejected their application to marry on the island.
They took their case to the Supreme Court, arguing that the Human Rights Act took primacy in Bermuda and protected their right to marry.
Yesterday a packed courtroom in the Dame Lois Browne-Evans Building erupted into spontaneous applause after Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons ruled in the couple’s favour.
“The common law definition of marriage, that marriage is the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman, and its reflection in the Marriage Act section 24 and the Matrimonial Clauses Act section 15 (c) are inconsistent with the provisions of the Human Rights Act as they constitute deliberate different treatment on the basis of sexual orientation,” Mrs Justice Simmons said.
“In so doing the common law discriminates against same-sex couples by excluding them from marriage and more broadly speaking the institution of marriage.
“On the facts of this case the applicants were discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation when the Registrar refused to process their notice of intended marriage.
“Same-sex couples denied access to marriage laws and entry into the institution of marriage have been denied what the Human Rights Commission terms a “basket of goods”, that is rights of a spouse contained in numerous enactments of Parliament.”
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.”
Mr Godwin described the ruling as a big step in the right direction and told The Royal Gazette that he and Mr DeRoche would be resubmitting their application to marry to the Registrar-General “within days”.
“It has been a long time coming,” he said. “This ruling, although it was in our favour ... there is still so much more to do in Bermuda.
“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.”
Meanwhile, yesterday’s 48-page judgment was welcomed by the Rainbow Alliance who declared the ruling as victory for all same-gender loving people in Bermuda. The group said “history has been made and love has won”.
Senator Jeff Baron, the Minister of National Security, added: “Today’s ruling affirms that equality is for all — regardless of who you love, what you look like or who you pray to. And equality, when it’s real, isn’t conditional. Let’s acknowledge that there’s a tremendous amount of work to do, right here at home, to move barriers and heal our community. Let’s keep working together, let’s build this community of supporters and champions for equality.
“And despite hurtful attacks let us reach across and engage the most sceptical citizens and show them that Bermudian values; values of love, respect and inclusiveness, can be found in every corner of this island.”
Jamaica needs to take heed of what has happened in Bermuda and end its legalized homophobia.  I'd love to go back to Jamaica, but that will not happen until that countries anti-gay laws change. 

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