Published On: Wed, Feb 21st, 2018

Law reversing gay marriage rights in Bermuda faces first legal challenge

gay-marriageHAMILTON - A gay Bermudian living in the United States is going to court to challenge the recently passed law that prevents gay marriage, in the hopes that he will be able to tie the knot in his homeland one day.

Rod Ferguson, through his attorneys, filed the lawsuit, claiming that the British overseas territory’s new Domestic Partnership Act is unconstitutional.

The Domestic Partnership Act reverses a Supreme Court ruling in May last year that enabled gay couples to marry in Bermuda. The law, which was passed in December last year but only took effect earlier this month when Governor John Rankin gave his assent, provides same-sex couples with a raft of legal rights but prevent them from tying the knot.

But Mark Pettingill, the lawyer who represented Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche in the lawsuit that led to the court ruling last year, says Ferguson is fighting the controversial legislation.

The 38-year-old man says he has always considered himself the marrying kind and wants to ensure that if he goes that route, he can have his nuptials performed in the land of his birth.

“I rejoiced when Bermuda finally established the right for same-sex couples to marry in 2017 and I had planned to exercise that right someday, but then it was taken away through the passage of the Domestic Partnerships Act,” he said in a statement.

“I strongly believe that this is a fundamental human rights issue, that everyone is entitled to the same protection of law which includes the service of a contractual marriage in Bermuda. When the rest of the right-thinking world has accepted the position that marriage should be available to same-sex and opposite-sex couples alike, it is very disappointing that my own country has effectively moved backwards.

“I am grateful for what so many others have done to contribute to Bermuda’s movement toward marriage equality, and I’m privileged to be in a position, with the support of family, friends, and the LGBT community, where I can now stand up and do my part. I have taken the decision to make this legal application to protect my rights along with the rights of so many of my fellow Bermudians,” he added.

The aim of his civil claim is to have the Domestic Partnership Act declared void by the court, on the basis that it is inconsistent with his fundamental rights as set out in the Constitution, including protection of law, freedom of conscience, freedom of expression, freedom of association with other persons, creed, and certain property rights.

Pettingill, a former Attorney General, told the Royal Gazette newspaper that he had been approached by other people interested in pursuing a similar legal challenge, but they wanted to remain anonymous, while Ferguson was willing to put his name on the lawsuit.

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