Earlier this year, Bermuda became the first territory to legalise and subsequently repeal marriage equality.
Bermuda’s Senate and House of Assembly announced the legislation by wide margins in December (2017) and a majority of voters opposed same-sex marriage in a referendum.
“Governor Rankin and the Bermuda Parliament have shamefully made Bermuda the first national territory in the world to repeal marriage equality,” said Ty Cobb, Director of the Human Rights Campaign Global.
Bermuda’s Government on Thursday filed an appeal to a high court in London seeking to support a law challenged in local courts that would ban gay marriage in the British overseas island.
Bermuda’s governor, John Rankin, passed the Domestic Partnership Act (DPA), which allows same-sex couples to form domestic partnerships but not marry, marking a rare departure from the trend towards legalizing gay marriage in Western countries.
The Government of Bermuda, a wealthy nation of 60,000 people, says domestic partnerships offer equal rights as marriage. But two local courts considered the DPA unconstitutional, most recently in November, rejecting its implementation.
The Government said it is appealing the matter to London’s Privy Council, the highest court of appeal for British territories because the matter is of general public importance.
“Constitutional issues are important issues and this Government wants to get it right,” the Government said in a statement last Thursday.
Regional courts said the DPA violates an article in the constitution that protects freedom of conscience, handing down rulings that were honoured by local lawyers and activists who have fought to undo the legislation.
“This is a cynical, bigoted, hypocritical attack on the rights and freedoms of others,” said Tony Brannon, a gay rights activist in Bermuda, of the appeal to the Privy Council.
If same-sex marriage is allowed to stand, its defenders expect it to set a precedent for other British territories.
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